When we hear body fat we think of the fat that we can see and feel around our body but there are actually two types of fat that the body stores: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
Subcutaneous fat is the type of fat which lies underneath our skin and therefore is the type of fat we can see and feel. Visceral fat refers to the fat which is stored in the abdominal cavity and surrounds the body’s important organs. Fat which is residing around our stomachs can be a combination of the subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
Visceral fat is known to cause various health problems; in particular, it plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes due to the fat releasing a hormone which increases insulin resistance. It is therefore important to reduce the levels of visceral fat which will, in turn, reduce the chances of developing this condition. Higher levels of visceral fat are also associated with increased blood pressure, cholesterol and certain cancers.
Although all excess body fat can affect health it is important to highlight that people who are not classified as overweight could still have high amounts of visceral fat around their organs and therefore it is important to consider your nutritional habits and activity levels to prevent accumulation of fat that can’t be seen.
In order to find out your visceral fat you would need to undergo an MRI scan – This is expensive and therefore uncommon but is the only accurate way of identification. Taking waist measurements will give a good indication of how much subcutaneous and visceral fat you are likely to have; Harvard University suggests that 10% of body fat is likely to be stored as visceral fat. Women with a waist circumference of greater than 31.5 inches and men greater than 37 inches are considered at higher risk of developing a disease.