For many people “fat” is an ugly word, conjuring up images of beer bellies, dimpled butts, lumpy thighs and love handle. While too much fat can lead to a number of health problems, a certain amount of body fat is essential, and scientists are now beginning to realize just how important the different types of fat found within our bodies are when it comes to maintaining optimal physical health. That’s right, I said different types of fat. Contrary to what you may have thought, not all fat cells are the same.
When most people think of body fat, they visualize white fat cells (aka adipose or visceral fat), the type generally associated with obesity. White fat t is responsible for storing energy in the form of triglycerides, and acting as receptors for hormones such as insulin, cortison, and somatotropin (growth hormone), as well as producing leptin, a type of estrogen which regulate hunger. In addition, it also cushions our bones and internal organs, such as the heart, liver, pancreas, and intestines. It is also found mixed with other fats in layers under the skin.
Researchers have also found that white belly fat secretes a protein called retinal, which can increase resistance to insulin, leading to glucose intolerance and Type 2 diabetes.” Meanwhile, large deposits of visceral fat in the abdomen have been tied to increased risk for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.”
It is important to note here, that while white fat is considered to make-up the largest amount of non-essential fat in our bodies, the National Academy of Sports Medicine warns that females need 10%-13% of their total weight to come from white fat cells to stay healthy. In fact, Dr. J. Mark Brown a fat researcher from the Cleveland Lerner Research Institute was quoted by WebMD as stating that the reason many female figure competitors “who cut their body fat percentages too low (6%-10%) .not only tend to disrupt or lose their menstrual cycles, but may also throw off the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.”
All in all, body fat percentages of 16%-23% are generally considered good for normal women, while anything over 30% is considered to be overweight.
Essential fats are those that “help us absorb vitamins, and regulate cell structure, hormones (including those needed for fertility) absorption of vitamins and regulate our internal body temperature, keeping it around 98.6°. These fat cells are found in various parts of the body including bone marrow, nerve membranes and the membranes surrounding our organs. A prime example of these is brown fat cells, which burn energy as opposed to white cells, which store it. Interestingly, scientists only identified these cells about 10 years ago, and note that while they are relatively low in adults, brown fat is particularly abundant in infants,
Beige fat, found in pea-sized deposits beneath the skin along the spine and in the general area of the collarbone, is also a relatively new discovery. Although believed to be “converted from white fat cells while shivering and/or exercising when muscles release a hormone called irisin,” beige cells are rich in mitochondria and iron like brown fat cells, however, they don’t contain as much of the protein UCP1 Even so, a recent report published in the journal Cell states that researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute believe that these newly discovered type of energy-burning cell known might have “therapeutic potential for aiding weight loss and treating obesity in adults.”
Note: According to dietary experts, the best way to reduce visceral fat is to eat a diet consisting of protein, unrefined foods, unsaturated fatty acids, fiber and whole grains, as well as get a good 7-9 hours of sleep each night. In addition, strength training exercise (as opposed to cardio) has been found to be more effective when it comes to battling belly bulge.