Body fat: brown, white, visceral, belly, butt

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

There’s fat. And then there’s fat.  Who knew that fat comes in different colours and characteristics depending on where it lives in our bodies? Here are your fat basics:

  • Brown fat – When stimulated, brown fat can actually burn calories. Children and very lean people have more brown fat than the rest of us, and it’s what helps them keep warm. Brown fat stores decline in all adults, but are more active in winter months so still help with body warmth. Brown fat is now thought to be more like muscle than like white fat. When activated, brown fat burns white fat.
  • White fat – This type of body fat is much more plentiful than brown. Its job is to store energy and produce hormones that are then secreted into the bloodstream. When we lose weight by reducing calorie intake, we lose white fat, evenly all over.
  • Subcutaneous fat – This body fat is found directly under the skin, the fat that’s measured using those lovely skin-fold calipers to estimate your total body fat. Subcutaneous fat in the thighs and buttocks may actually provide potential health benefits,  but not so for subcutaneous fat deposits around the belly.
  • Visceral fat – This is the “deep” fat that wraps around your inner organs and spells trouble for your health. If you have a large belly, you have visceral fat. It may drive up the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even dementia.  When we lose weight by reducing calorie intake and also add increased physical exercise to our daily routine, we lose visceral fat as well as white fat.
  • Belly fat – This fat is both visceral and subcutaneous. Women with a waist circumference more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference more than 40 inches are at increased heart disease risk. Abdominal fat may be a bigger health risk than hip or thigh fat.
  • Thigh and butt fat – Men tend to accumulate fat in the belly, but women, especially if ‘pear-shaped’, accumulate it in our thighs and buttocks.  Oh, joy. But good news, my pear-shaped Heart Sisters: emerging evidence suggests that pear-shaped women may be protected from metabolic syndrome compared to ‘apple-shape’ or big-bellied women.



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6 thoughts on “Body fat: brown, white, visceral, belly, butt

  1. Very helpful info on all the different kinds of fat. Who knew? You’ve got a new fan.

    I look forward to viewing your next article.


  2. Thanks for creating valuable information about our body fat! I’m a new fan of your website. Keep up the great work, Carolyn.


  3. Pingback: body shape

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