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Visceral vs Subcutaneous Fat - What's the Difference?

Updated: May 17


All fat is not equal. The truth is, some areas of fat are easier to lose than others. So if it seems like fat comes off in some places and not in others, you’re not imagining things.


One of the most widely used tools for calculating healthy weight estimates is the body mass index (or BMI for short), which relies on the ratio of weight to height measurements.


Not all fat is created equal. While overall body fat percentage is important, it’s especially important to monitor abdominal obesity (also called visceral fat), which may be more dangerous for long-term health than fat that accumulates around the hips and thighs (known as subcutaneous fat).


Waist size is a simple, useful measurement because abdominal muscle can be replaced by fat with age, even though weight may remain the same. So, an increasing waist size can be an important “warning sign,” and should prompt you to examine how much you are eating and exercising.

  • Some believe that waist-to-hip ratio is a better indicator of risk, as waist size may vary based on body frame size, but one of the largest studies to date found that waist size and waist-to-hip ratio were equally effective at predicting risk of death from heart disease, cancer, or any cause.

In people who are not overweight, waist size may be an even more telling warning sign of increased health risks than BMI.


Related : Is BMI a Good Indicator of Health?


What is it about visceral fat that makes it strong marker of disease risk? The fat surrounding the liver and other abdominal organs - visceral fat- is very metabolically active. It releases fatty acids, inflammatory agents, and hormones that ultimately lead to higher LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure. The image shows a normal heart and a heart surrounded with visceral fat.






Related : Are You Drinking Enough Water?


Although visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, it is relatively easier to lose than the latter. Visceral fat responds better to diet and exercise than subcutaneous fat.


You can reduce visceral fat by:

  • Consuming fewer calories than you burn each day (calorie deficit).

  • Performing regular aerobic and resistance exercises.

  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking.

  • Including more fiber in the form of vegetables and whole grains in your diet.

  • Including lean protein to help you stay full for long.

  • Proper stress management.

  • Getting enough sleep.

  • Drinking sufficient water.

About the authors:

Madur & Anitha Jagannath are certified Nutrition Consultants, in addition to their professions in technology and human resources. When Madur started feeling lethargic and slowing down, he started exercising regularly, became conscious of healthy eating habits and nutrition. He is an avid runner and does half-marathons often. At Voyage to Wellness, they attribute our reputation to the lasting customer relationships they have developed throughout the years. They believe in health & wellness and being fit, at all stages of people's lives.


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