Not all of them are created equal
Most people see fat either as relatively harmless or as something they want to fight to get their perfect bikini body. But not all fats are created equal. Some kinds of body fat are worse than others.
Did you know that certain types of fat, which are stored around your organs can contribute to heart disease, dementia, depression and many other diseases? Certainly, there is no easier way to ruin your health than having excess fat, especially around your belly. But let me explain that later.
Why do we even need body fat?
Fat stores excess calories. That’s important, because our bodies metabolise those fat stores when we’re hungry. On top of that, fat releases hormones which control our metabolism.
You also need it for heat, insulation, for cushioning your bones and organs and for energy. Yep, might sound unlikely for you, but fat is vital and we need it to survive.
Here’s the thing: What kind of body fat you have and where you store it, matters as much as how much body fat you have. More specifically, there are different types of fat that have different functions.
Brown fat is the “good fat” which acts more like a muscle. It’s darker in colour due to a rich blood supply. In fact, it burns calories rather than storing them even when you’re inactive.
But humans have unfortunately so little brown fat that it won’t help you burn enough calories to loose weight. Usually we have brown fat in the neck region and the shoulders. Sometimes in the chest and down the spine. Children have more brown fat than adults, which helps them keep warm.
It’s possible to grow your brown fat by doing regular exercise, like a 45 minute bike ride a few times a week. By doing that, your body releases the muscle hormone irisin, which helps converting white fat into brown fat.
White fat (subcutaneous fat)
This is the most common type of fat in our bodies and the type that you can see and grab. Sadly.
Usually it settles around the hips and thighs, but it can be stored pretty much everywhere — right underneath your skin.
It has a low metabolic rate, so it doesn’t help you with burning calories. The main job of white fat is padding and it produces a hormone called adiponectin, which acts against inflammations. Besides that, it has insulin-sensitising properties.
But don’t think more is better now! The more white fat you have, the less adiponectin is produced. Smaller fat cells release more of the hormone than larger fat cells.
In order to live healthy and to sustain all internal functions, the human body requires a moderate amount of white fat. The operative word here is moderate.
This is the kind of fat you don’t want to carry around, at all. Why? Because it’s the toxic type of fat. The problem with it is, that it accumulates around your organs deep inside your abdominal cavity.
That’s the reason why you cant really see it. In fact, thin people with no “belly fat” can also have a dangerous amount of visceral fat, especially if they are sedentary.
Visceral fat can cause insulin resistance, which can boost the risk of diabetes. It also plays a larger role in releasing stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances.
As we become older we’re more likely to store visceral fat. Carrying around too much of this type of fat can lead to strokes, coronary heart disease, dementia, diabetes, arthritis and obesity.
To win the fight against visceral fat you have to develop healthy habits. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are a very important part of it. Besides that, you have to check your family history for aforementioned deceases. Genetics play a big role in the type of fat you most likely store.
So when you’re trying to lose weight, you’re mostly losing white fat. However, the results change a bit, if you add workouts to your calorie reduction. Exercising plus diet will lead to slightly more visceral fat going away.
But you have to keep in mind: Having fat does not mean you are fat. Don’t be scared of the word ‘fat’, because it can be a good thing! That goes for fat in your diet as well, which we’ll explore in another blog post.