In the pursuit of optimal health and wellness, understanding the nuances of body fat is crucial. Two types of fat that often take center stage in discussions about abdominal health are subcutaneous and visceral fat. Let's delve into the depths of these adipose tissues to unravel their distinct characteristics, locations, and the factors that influence their accumulation.
Location: Situated directly beneath the skin, subcutaneous fat is the outermost layer of fat. It's the soft, pinchable fat that you can feel when you press your fingers against your skin.
Characteristics: Subcutaneous fat serves as a protective cushion, insulation, and energy reserve. It's found throughout the body, but especially in areas like the thighs, hips, and, of course, the abdominal region.
Role: While excess subcutaneous fat can contribute to a visibly larger waistline, moderate amounts are a natural and essential component of the body's composition.
Location: Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is concealed deeper within the abdominal cavity, surrounding vital organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines.
Characteristics: Visceral fat is not as easily noticeable, as it's hidden beneath the abdominal muscles. It can lead to a firm and rigid feel in the abdominal area when excess amounts are present.
Role: This type of fat plays a more complex role, influencing hormone production and potentially contributing to metabolic disturbances. Excessive visceral fat has been linked to an increased risk of various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
The Difference: The primary distinction between subcutaneous and visceral fat lies in their locations and functions. Subcutaneous fat is closer to the skin's surface and serves more visibly as insulation and energy storage. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is deeper within the body and has a more intricate relationship with overall health, affecting organ function and hormonal balance.
Causes of Accumulation:
Genetics: Genetic factors can influence the distribution of fat in the body, determining whether an individual is more prone to storing fat subcutaneously or viscerally.
Lifestyle Choices: Sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits contribute significantly to the accumulation of both types of fat. Regular physical activity and a balanced diet are essential for managing fat levels.
Stress: Chronic stress can lead to hormonal imbalances, promoting the storage of visceral fat. Implementing stress management techniques is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance.
How to check your health risk
Visceral Fat (VF) is the hidden cause of heart problems, diabetes, and breast cancer. Right now, we can only measure VF with fancy tools like Bio Impedance Analyzer (BIA) or DEXA scanner. But, checking the ratio of your waist to hips (Waist-Hip Ratio or WHR) can give us an idea about your VF.
Why the Waist-Hip Ratio or WHR ?
You can do this at home. Here's how:
Measure Your Waist:
- Find the smallest part around your belly button.
- Use a tape measure and write down the number. That's your waist size.
Measure Your Hips:
- Go around the widest part of your hips with the tape measure.
- Note the number. That's your hip size.
Calculate the Ratio:
- Grab a calculator and divide your waist size by your hip size.
- The answer is your waist-to-hip ratio.
Check Your Ratio:
- According to WHO:
- If you're a man, a ratio of at least 0.90 means you might have too much belly fat.
- For women, a ratio of 0.85 or more suggests the same.
- If the ratio is higher than 1.0 for anyone, it could mean more health risks.
- According to WHO:
A holistic approach to health involves recognizing the differences between subcutaneous and visceral fat and addressing the underlying factors that contribute to their accumulation. By fostering a lifestyle that promotes overall well-being, individuals can strive for a healthier balance of these essential but distinct types of body fat.
Start with the foundations of health :
- 30 minutes of exercise
- More movement through the day tracked via steps
- Add Protein in every meal
- Add a generous amount of Vegetables in each meal
- Keep unhealthy fats to a minimum
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