It’s no secret that carrying excess body fat puts you at higher risk for a host of health problems.
But the evidence is starting to pile up that not all fat is created equal, and what really counts is where you store that fat.
The most dangerous type is known as visceral fat, a firm internal layer that normally forms between the organs in the abdomen.
It’s usually the cause of a beer belly and contributes to an apple’s unwanted body shape – considered the physique with the highest risk of health problems.
Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is the shaky type of fat that lies just under the skin and causes cellulite.
This type of fat is actually the least harmful and tends to accumulate around the thighs and buttocks rather than in the intestines, creating a pear-shaped body.
Visceral fat is dangerous because it is thought to release chemicals and hormones into the blood that cause inflammation. Over time, this has been linked to chronic conditions, such as heart disease and fatty liver disease.
The proximity of visceral fat to our organs increases the risk of these inflammatory chemicals entering them.
WHERE ARE THE DANGEROUS FAT ON THE BODY?
Evidence is mounting that not all fat is created equal, and what really counts is where you store that fat. The most dangerous type of fat is known as visceral fat, a firm internal layer that forms between the organs in the abdomen. It is usually the cause of a beer belly and contributes to an unwanted apple body shape, which is considered the physique with the highest risk of health problems. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is the shaky type of fat that lies just under the skin and causes cellulite
Subcutaneous fat does not release these chemicals and serves as the layer between the skin and muscles.
A study summarized the difference in risk earlier this month.
It found that people with higher levels of visceral fat around their thighs rather than subcutaneous fat that causes cellulite had a one-third greater risk of developing heart failure. The link remained true even when people were otherwise slim.
The University of Texas researchers — who followed 2,399 people aged 70 to 79 for an average of 12 years — pointed out that intramuscular fat is anti-inflammatory.
So, where are the danger zones for storing fat? And what can you do to lower the risk?
Legs and thighs
Many women hated a big butt or fat thighs.
But curves have become trendy in recent years, no doubt helped by the rise of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj. And for good reason.
HALF of women have NOT done strenuous exercise in the past year
According to a poll, nearly half of women have not done intense exercise in the past 12 months.
The percentage is lower for men, with just over a third claiming not to have exercised during that period.
The data comes from a survey of 8,000 adults by the Nuffield Health charity.
Britons are advised to do at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running or swimming, or two and a half hours of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or tennis, each week.
Tennis coach Judy Murray, mother of Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray, said the data shows a ‘really big challenge’ ahead in terms of ‘getting the country active’.
Results released today show that more than a third of women reported that their physical health deteriorated in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, 47 percent said they hadn’t done any vigorous exercise.
When it came to men, 28 percent said their physical health had deteriorated during the same period, and 34 percent admitted they had not engaged in vigorous activity during that time.
Two-thirds of the women mentioned a lack of motivation, compared to half of the men.
And 35 percent of women reported not knowing where to start when it came to exercise, compared with 28 percent of men.
More than half (55 percent) said lack of time from work was a barrier, compared with 46 percent of men.
Ms Murray, an ambassador for the Healthier Nation Index, said that women in particular “have difficulty finding the time to focus on their well-being,” she said.
Ms Murray added: ‘I hope everyone can take a few minutes to find something active they enjoy doing, and also to find someone they can do it with.
“Exercising with friends helps me find both motivation and routine and gives an extra boost to my mental health, so I encourage everyone to gather friends and get moving together.”
Nuffield has launched a Find Time For Your Mind campaign that aims to encourage people to get five extra minutes of exercise per day to improve mental and physical well-being.
It comes as the UK faces a worsening obesity crisis. The latest data shows that 64 percent of adults were overweight or obese in 2019.
However, an analysis by Cancer Research UK last released last month predicted that more than 42 million adults in the UK will be overweight by 2040, about 71 percent of the country.
Exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight, with the NHS recommending adults get exercise every day, or at least four or five days.
They also advise Britons to reduce the time they spend sitting or lying down and to break up long periods of inactivity with some physical activity.
If you’re a woman, there’s no better place to store fat — as long as it’s the type of cellulite that’s just under the skin and not the kind that’s buried deep inside the body.
In addition to being further away from vital organs, where fat can cause damage, studies suggest that fat stored in the legs has more than 100 genetic differences than belly fat, making it less harmful.
A 2010 study suggested that weight gain in the lower body causes us to make more fat cells, while gaining extra padding around the diaphragm tells fat cells to expand, The Telegraph reports.
The latter is dangerous, because when fat cells grow too large, they leak fatty acids into the bloodstream, where they are toxic to the body.
Fat around the diaphragm
This is the most dangerous type of fat, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and even dementia.
It is harmful because it surrounds the internal organs.
That is why people with apple-shaped bodies at any age are considered to be at greatest risk of health problems compared to the other body types.
A 2019 study of about 160,000 women found that those with a healthy BMI but bulging gut — with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.85 or more — were up to 44 percent more likely to die than their slimmer-waisted peers. .
Their risk of heat illness and cancer was even higher than those with a BMI that made them clinically obese, but had relatively smaller diaphragms.
Hard belly fat – visceral – is more dangerous than soft belly fat – subcutaneous – because it surrounds the internal organs.
Visceral fat is also biologically active, meaning it releases inflammatory chemicals and hormones into the blood that can enter organs.
Men store more fat in their bellies than women, hence the term ‘beer belly’.
Women are thought to be protected from “central obesity” by the sex hormone estrogen, which causes fat to be stored in the hips and thighs.
A larger bust can be a sign of obesity, which itself is a risk factor for many health problems.
But a 2008 study of more than 90,000 women in their twenties by Harvard University found that those with a D-cup were three times more likely to develop diabetes in middle age than their peers with A-cups — even if they had a healthy diet. had BMI.
However, a separate study in 2012 suggested that larger breasts may indicate that these women are more prone to the dangerous kind of visceral fat.
The bigger your neck, the greater your risk of heart disease, studies suggest.
If you have a lot of neck fat, it means you also have a lot of upper body fat, which allows free fatty acids to flow into the bloodstream, increasing the risk of heart problems.
A thick neck can also block your airways while you sleep, making you sleep less well.
This, in turn, can prevent organs from resting and regenerating overnight, increasing pressure on the heart.
In a 2009 study that presented data at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, researchers found that people with larger necks had higher levels of bad cholesterol.
The study of 3,320 people also warned that wider necks are associated with higher levels of blood fat, insulin resistance and high blood sugar — risk factors for things like diabetes.
A recent study in the Journal of American Heart Health found that a neck circumference greater than 14 inches for women and 17 inches for men is associated with a greater risk of heart problems than traditional measurements such as BMI.
What can I do to reduce my risk of dangerous fat build-up?
It is not possible to target visceral fat above subcutaneous if it has already accumulated in the body.
However, losing weight and reducing overall body fat can help you get back to healthy levels, and there are plenty of ways to keep it off:
- Studies suggest that more calcium and vitamin D in your body may be linked to less visceral fat. So load up on leafy greens like kale and spinach. Tofu and sardines are also good choices, as are dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk;
- Replace saturated fats — found in fatty red meat — for monounsaturated fats, found in olive, peanut and canola oils, avocados and nuts. This seems to prevent the build-up of intramuscular fat;
- Exercising vigorously for at least 30 minutes two to four times a week. One study found that this resulted in a 7 percent drop in the rate of visceral fat buildup. Vigorous exercise includes brisk walking, cycling, aerobic exercise, and strength training.