It’s no secret that carrying excess fat puts you at greater risk of developing a host of health problems.
But the evidence is starting to build that not all fats are created equal, and what really matters is where you store that fat.
The most dangerous type is known as visceral fat, which is a hard inner layer that usually forms between the organs inside the abdomen.
It is usually caused by a beer belly and contributes to an undesirable apple body shape – the body is considered to be most at risk of health problems.
On the other hand, subcutaneous fat is a type of oscillating fat that lies just under the skin and causes the formation of cellulite.
This type of fat is actually the least harmful and tends to accumulate around the thighs and buttocks rather than the gut, creating a pear-shaped physique.
Visceral fat is dangerous because it is believed to release chemicals and hormones into the blood that cause inflammation. This has been linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and fatty liver disease.
The proximity of visceral fat to our organs increases the risk of these inflammatory chemicals penetrating it.
Where are the dangerous spots of body fat?
Evidence is starting to build that not all fats are created equal, and what really matters is where you store that fat. The most dangerous type of fat is known as visceral fat, which is a hard inner layer that forms between the organs inside the abdomen. It is usually caused by a beer belly and contributes to an undesirable apple body shape, which is the body at greatest risk of health problems. On the other hand, subcutaneous fat is a type of oscillating fat that lies just under the skin and causes the formation of cellulite
Subcutaneous fat does not release these chemicals and acts as a layer between the skin and muscle.
The study summarized the difference in risk earlier this month.
It found that people with higher levels of visceral fat around their thighs rather than the subcutaneous fat that causes cellulite had up to a third of their risk of developing heart failure. The link was true even if the people were skinny.
Researchers from the University of Texas — who followed 2,399 people aged 70 to 79 for an average of 12 years — suggested that muscle fat causes inflammation.
So, where are the danger zones for fat storage? And what can you do to reduce the risk?
legs and thighs
Many women used to resent having large or thick thighs.
But curves have become trendy in recent years, and they’ve no doubt helped the rise of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj. And for good reason.
Half of the women have not done any vigorous exercise in the past year
A survey showed that nearly half of women had not done vigorous exercise in the past 12 months.
The rate is lower for men, with just over a third saying they did not succeed in that period.
The data comes from a survey of 8,000 adults conducted by the charity Nuffield Health.
Britons are advised to do at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, such as running or swimming, or two and a half hours of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or tennis.
Tennis coach Jodi Murray, mother of Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray, said the data showed a “really huge challenge” in terms of “revitalizing the nation”.
Results released today show that more than a third of women report that their physical health has worsened in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, 47 percent said they failed to do any vigorous exercise.
When it came to men, 28 percent said their physical health had deteriorated in the same period, and 34 percent admitted they had not done any vigorous activity in that time.
Two-thirds of women reported a lack of motivation, compared to half for men.
And 35 percent of women said they don’t know where to start when it comes to exercise, compared to 28 percent of men.
More than half (55 percent) said lack of time due to work was a barrier, compared to 46 percent of men.
Ms. Murray, an ambassador for the Healthier Nation Index, said that women in particular “struggle to find 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, as well as find someone they can do it with.
“Exercising with friends helps me find both motivation and routine as well as provide an extra boost to my mental health, so I encourage everyone to gather friends and get moving together.”
Nuffield launched the Find Time For Your Mind campaign, which aims to encourage people to do an extra five minutes of exercise a day to boost mental and physical health.
This comes at a time when the United Kingdom is facing a deepening obesity crisis. The latest data shows that 64 percent of adults were either overweight or obese in 2019.
However, an analysis by Cancer Research UK released last month predicted that more than 42 million adults in the UK will be overweight by 2040, about 71 per cent of the country.
One of the best ways to lose weight is exercise, with the National Health Service (NHS) recommending that adults try to do some 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 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 kind just under the skin and not the kind buried deep in the body.
In addition to staying away from vital organs, where fat can cause damage, studies show that fat stored in the legs has more than 100 genetic differences from belly fat, making it less harmful.
A 2010 study suggested that gaining weight in the lower body causes us to produce 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 become too large they begin to 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, and it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and even dementia.
It is harmful because it surrounds the internal organs.
This is why people with apple-shaped bodies at any age are more likely to have health problems than other body types.
A 2019 study of nearly 160,000 women found that women with a healthy BMI but a bulging gut — with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.85 or more — were 44 percent more likely to die than their peers with slimmer waists.
Their risk of developing heat illness and cancer was higher than those with a BMI that made them clinically obese but with a relatively smaller diaphragm.
Hard abdominal fat – visceral – is more dangerous than soft abdominal fat – under the skin – because it surrounds the internal organs.
Visceral fat is also bioactive, which means that it releases inflammatory chemicals and hormones into the blood that can penetrate the organs.
Men are more likely to store fat in their stomachs than women, which is why the term “beer belly” came into being.
Women are thought to be immune to “central obesity” by the sex hormone estrogen, which sends fat to be stored in the hips and thighs instead.
A bust can be the biggest sign of obesity, which in itself is a risk factor for a host of health problems.
But a 2008 study of more than 90,000 women in their twenties conducted by Harvard University found that those with a D cup were three times more likely to develop diabetes by middle age than their peers with A cups — even if their BMI healthy.
However, a separate 2012 study suggested that larger breasts may indicate that these women are more likely to have a dangerous type of visceral fat.
Studies show that the larger your neck, the greater your risk of heart disease.
Having a lot of neck fat indicates that you also have a lot of upper body fat, which allows free fatty acids to flow into your bloodstream, which increases your risk of heart disease.
A fatty neck can also block your airways while you sleep, reducing the amount of quality sleep you get.
This, in turn, may prevent organs from resting and regenerating overnight, increasing stress on the heart.
In a 2009 study that presented data for the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, researchers found that people with larger necks had higher levels of bad cholesterol.
The study in 3,320 people also warned that a wider neck was associated with high levels of blood fats, insulin resistance and high blood sugar — risk factors for things like diabetes.
A recent study in the American Heart Health Journal found that neck circumferences greater than 14 inches for women and 17 inches for men were associated with a greater risk of heart disease than traditional measurements such as body mass index.
What can I do to reduce my risk of developing a dangerous buildup?
Visceral fat above the skin cannot be targeted once it has already accumulated in the body.
However, losing weight and reducing your overall body fat percentage can lead you to healthy levels, and there are plenty of ways to avoid this:
- Studies show that more calcium and vitamin D in your body may be linked to less visceral fat. So load up on leafy green vegetables like cabbage and spinach. Tofu and sardines are good choices, as are dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk.
- Replace the saturated fats found in fatty red meats with the unsaturated fats found in olive oil, peanuts, canola oil, avocados and nuts. This appears to prevent the buildup of muscle fat;
- Exercise vigorously for at least 30 minutes two to four times a week. A study found that this resulted in a 7 percent reduction in the rate of visceral fat accumulation. Vigorous exercises include brisk walking, cycling, aerobic exercises and strength training.