Making Sense Of Different Types Of Body Fat


 While it may not seem like it, body fat is an organ that contains nerves, immune cells, and connective tissue. It’s also made up of different types of fat cells.

Depending on the body’s needs, the primary job of body fat is to store and release energy. The different types of fat cells also serve their own unique purposes.

Plastic surgeons are sometimes faced with the difficult task of telling patients that plastic surgery can’t always address issues with excess fat. That’s because not all body fat is created equal.

The Different Types of Body Fat

The main type of fat cells that comprise body fat are white fat cells. They produce hormones like leptin and adiponectin, as well as store energy. Brown fat cells are referred to as thermogenic because under certain conditions (such as colder temperatures) they burn energy to produce heat. People with more brown fat cells tend to be leaner and have a higher metabolism. Finally, beige fat cells are white cells that are in the process of transforming to brown cells.

Fat is not an F-word. (Well, it is, but you get what we mean.) In fact, fat is essential to the healthy operation of the body. It plays many important roles including regulation of body temperature, absorbing vitamins, and producing fertility hormones.

Yes, too much fat is unhealthy. But so too is not enough fat. What’s considered the right amount of essential fat for each person is not a universal equation and can vary quite a bit. For example, women generally have 6-11% more than men.

One thing is for certain though. Some types of fat are more dangerous than others. The two types of fat we’ll focus on here are subcutaneous and visceral.

What Is Subcutaneous Fat?

Subcutaneous literally means, “under the skin.” Thus, subcutaneous fat is fat that lies beneath the skin. You’re able to pinch it with your fingers.

This kind of fat accounts for about 90% of overall body fat. Subcutaneous fat acts as a cushion between the skin and muscles for comfort and protection. It also produces estrogen – which accounts for women generally having more body fat than men.

Subcutaneous fat is essential fat. Yet, it’s possible to have too much. The body stores subcutaneous fat as an emergency backup source of calories in the event of starvation. When the amount of calories going in exceeds what’s being burnt, the body will continue to store this fat and it will accumulate.

Many people find that reducing their caloric intake and avoiding refined and processed foods along with high-intensity exercise can lessen subcutaneous fat. There are times, however, where no matter how much focus on diet or exercise, there are stubborn pockets that won’t disappear.  In these cases, plastic surgeons may recommend adding liposuction body shaping treatments to reshape the area. Even in more complicated procedures such as a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), it’s also subcutaneous fat that’s removed.

Visceral fat, on the other hand, is a very different creature.

The Dangers of Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is located between the organs in the abdominal area of the body. It typically appears as a protruding waist and unlike subcutaneous fat, it’s hard and you can’t pinch it.

This is the type of fat that cannot be removed with plastic surgery or liposuction. Patients usually need to completely revamp their diet, ensure they’re getting enough sleep every night, and regularly perform targeted abdominal strength-training exercises.

While it may sound like a big commitment, it’s important to get rid of visceral fat. As it accumulates, it secretes a protein that’s known to cause insulin resistance that could lead to diabetes. Increased levels of visceral fat are also linked to a higher risk of stroke, dementia, colorectal and breast cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. So while subcutaneous fat can be a nuisance, visceral fat can be deadly.

Are You Considering Fat Removal?

Hopefully, you now have more clarity on the different types of body fat and fat cells.

So if you think you’re a good candidate for a fat removal procedure and you’re ready to speak to a board-certified plastic surgeon about your options, contact us today!

During your free consultation, you’ll be able to discuss your specific needs and how they can be addressed to result in a thinner and healthier you.