What is Body Fat?
The body fat percentage (BFP) of a human or other living being is the total mass of fat divided by total body mass, multiplied by 100; body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat. Essential body fat is necessary to maintain life and reproductive functions. The percentage of essential body fat for women is greater than that for men, due to the demands of childbearing and other hormonal functions. Storage body fat consists of fat accumulation in adipose tissue, part of which protects internal organs in the chest and abdomen. A number of methods are available for determining body fat percentage, such as measurement with calipers or through the use of bioelectrical impedance analysis.
The body fat percentage is a measure of fitness level, since it is the only body measurement which directly calculates a person’s relative body composition without regard to height or weight. The widely used body mass index (BMI) provides a measure that allows the comparison of the adiposity of individuals of different heights and weights. While BMI largely increases as adiposity increases, due to differences in body composition, other indicators of body fat give more accurate results; for example, individuals with greater muscle mass or larger bones will have higher BMIs. As such, BMI is a useful indicator of overall fitness for a large group of people, but a poor tool for determining the health of an individual.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement of a person’s weight with respect to his or her height. It is more of an indicator than a direct measurement of a person’s total body fat.
BMI, more often than not, correlates with total body fat. This means that as the BMI score increases, so does a person’s total body fat.
The WHO defines an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 as overweight – an adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese – a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight, and between 18.5 to 24.9 a healthy weight .
BMI in an individual is calculated by the use of a mathematical formula. It can also be estimated using tables in which one can match height in inches to weight in pounds to estimate BMI. There are convenient calculators available on internet sites that help calculate BMI as well.
The formula is – BMI = (Weight in kilograms) divided by (Height in metres squared)
A normal BMI score is one that falls between 18.5 and 24.9. This indicates that a person is within the normal weight range for his or her height. A BMI chart is used to categorize a person as underweight, normal, overweight, or obese.
Why do woman have a higher fat percentage than men?
For a healthy body, women need a higher fat percentage than men, as you can see in the table above. The reason they need more fat is for the following reasons, among others:
- They need this fat for ovulation and uterine protection.
- Breast tissue consists mainly of fat.
By men, the fat is mainly stored in the abdomen. Abdominal fat (also known as belly fat) is bad fat and therefore the lower fat percentages for men apply.
What causes excess body fat?
The energy – or calories – our body needs comes from what we eat and drink. With calories, our body works on a supply and demand system. If the food you eat ‘supplies’ the ‘demand’ your body has from movement and activity each day, all the calories will be converted into the energy you need. But, if you supply your body with more calories than it demands, those excess calories that are not burned by activity, will be stored in fat cells. If this stored fat is not converted into energy later, it creates excess body fat. Healthy eating doesn’t just mean looking to reduce stored fat, if your reading shows your lower body fat percentage is lower than the healthy range, that can also cause problems such as osteoporosis in later years, and you should talk to a health professional about how to increase your body fat percentage healthily.
But I don’t look ‘fat’
Fat can be stored under the skin or around internal organs, so it may not always be visible when you look in the mirror. A person can look fit and even be a healthy weight for their height, but could still be carrying a high level of body fat and that could be a health risk. Regular use of BMI monitor will help you to track your body fat percentage over time, you can then check your body fat results against the healthy body fat ranges and make adjustments to your diet and fitness regime if you need to.
What is visceral fat?
It’s important to understand the differences between visceral and subcutaneous fat. The fat you can pinch on your waist, arms, legs or anywhere else is all subcutaneous fat, stored just beneath the skin. Visceral fat is different. It’s the deep, internal fat packed around your abdominal organs — sometimes also referred to as intra-abdominal fat, refers to the fat that surrounds the internal organs and is the reason so many people have big bellies.
Healthy levels of visceral fat help insulate and protect your organs and play a role in your endocrine and immune function. In excess amounts, however, visceral fat can spell serious trouble for your performance and your health. Visceral fat is the really dangerous fat, directly linked to diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers. It is full of hormones and toxins, which, when released, go directly to the liver or into the bloodstream. (Thus the need for liver support.) The more visceral fat your body carries, the more likely you are to develop any of the above diseases or conditions, all of which can incapacitate or kill you.
Sedentary people, smokers and drinkers have been shown to have more visceral fat, than active people who are non-smokers and non-drinkers.
How to measure visceral fat?
There are many different ways to measure visceral fat, these include options you could do at home, but you could also go to your doctor. An easy method you could do right now is to take a measurement of the largest parts around your waist and hip. However, this option is not entirely accurate. Once you have measured both your waists and hip, divide the waist by the hip measurement. A healthy body should have less than 1.0 for men or 0.85 for women.
A good indicator of having a high level of visceral fat, is a high BMI score (Body Mass Index) and a large waist. If you have both, chances are likely that you have a high level of visceral fat.
Complications of visceral fat
Visceral fat can start causing health problems immediately. It can increase insulin resistance, even if you’ve never had diabetes or prediabetes. Research has found Trusted Source that this may be because a retinol-binding protein that increases insulin resistance is secreted by this type of fat. Visceral fat can also raise blood pressure quickly.
Most importantly, carrying excess visceral fat increases your risk for developing several serious long-term, life-threatening medical conditions. These include:
- heart attacks and heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- breast cancer
- colorectal cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
How to get rid of visceral fat?
Harvard University states that diet and exercise have been to be more effective at reducing visceral fat than the fat around our hips and thighs. So don’t be too disheartened if diet and exercise is not reducing your clothing sizes as much as you’d like as your work could well be paying off through unseen benefits inside your body.
The following recommendations have been recognised as being helpful in reducing levels of visceral fat.
- Take part in regular exercise
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Ensure you regularly get a good night’s sleep
- Reduce your levels of stress
- Limit alcohol intake
- Quit smoking
It should come as no surprise that these are the same lifestyle recommendations for reducing the risk and effect of type 2 diabetes.
Which foods should you avoid to reduce visceral fat?
- Fried foods
- Refined carbohydrates
- Baked goods
- Foods and drinks with added sugar