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Not All Fat is Unhealthy

'Healthy' doesn't look the same on everyone and the weight someone sits at when they feel their best varies and expands across all different shapes and sizes.

So how do you know if the body fat you have is a risk factor for ill-health?

To be honest, if it's a risk factor for other diseases chances are you'll be experiencing various other symptoms that suggest you need to improve your health. But for the sake of it, let's look at adipose tissue and the different types of body fat that science has identified.

What is adipose tissue?

Adipose tissue is the technical term for the accumulation of fat cells. It forms our essential fat, subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat. 

Now, instead of looking at fat from the negative standpoint, we're so ingrained to view it from, let’s learn a bit more about it from a functional perspective.

Fat is simply a storage form for energy.

Consider it an extra energy source that has various positive functions in our body. These are the three main types of adipose:

  • Essential fat

  • White fat

  • Brown fat

Essential adipose tissue or essential fat helps regulate body temperature, acts as a vitamin reserve and plays a role in hormone signalling. It is found in many parts of the body including the nerve membranes, bone marrow, and all cell membranes. Be aware that you cannot lose this fat without compromising your health.

White adipose tissue or white fat, on the other hand, both insulates and cushions our organs and protects the bones. It also provides us with an extra layer of fat for energy. In fact, white fat is the largest backup in the body which is purposeful. Sadly though, we see this fat and are programmed to find it the most unattractive.

It is vital to understand that a healthy amount of white fat aids hormonal health and fertility. It also boosts leptin, an appetite suppression and fat storage regulating hormone. However, too much of it leads to leptin resistance which results to the body being less receptive to leptin action.

Brown adipose tissue or brown fat is a ‘good’ fat because it has blood flow and triggers thermogenesis to keep us warm and enable us to burn other fats. Some research suggests that increasing the activity of your body’s existing brown fat can boost your ability to burn white fat.

Subcutaneous and visceral fat

Subcutaneous fat is what is found underneath our skin.

About 90% of fat in our body is in this form, mostly in our bum, legs, and arms. It is a combination of white, beige, and brown fat. While we are encouraged by the media not to have too much of this fat, it is in fact protective.

Visceral fat is the fat stored within the abdominal cavity around our liver, pancreas, heart, and intestines. This is the kind of fat which is metabolically active and researchers suspect it makes certain proteins that releases cytokines which cause inflammation.

Why visceral fat can be harmful

A little amount of visceral fat in the body is normal, but high levels of it can be dangerous for the following reasons:

  • It can increase the risk of hypertension and blocked arteries.

  • It secretes a protein that impairs insulin sensitivity, leading to more fat and metabolic syndrome.

  • It has receptors for the stress hormone cortisol. This means that high levels of visceral fat make us more receptive to stress.

How to specifically reduce visceral fat

Here are a few tips on how to lower your levels of visceral fat in the body:

  • Research tells us that the amount of sleep you get plays a key role in visceral fat reduction.

  • Eat a balanced whole-food diet that doesn’t starve your essential fat.

  • Visceral fat is linked with overeating at one sitting, so try to mostly eat in tune with your hunger and satiety signals. If you're out of touch with these signals, touch base with a naturopath.

  • Engage in something each day that makes you feel good. Stress is linked to higher amounts of visceral fat and more visceral fat is linked to more stress.

If you want to transform the shape of your body and feel healthier, don't start a diet. Diets are not sustainable and they mess with the way we feel about our bodies and think about food. Connect with me in a free 15 minute call and let's explore how you can feel comfortable and healthy in your skin, without a restrictive eating program.


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