Why The Fat You Can See Isn’t The Fat You Should Worry About
If you have a healthy BMI, you don’t have to worry about your weight, right?
In reality, the area of your body where you store your fat may be a better predictor of health — regardless of your body mass index.
“All fat is not the same,” said Dr. Virend Somers, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Fat directly under the skin — the stuff we can see — isn’t necessarily harmful.
It’s the invisible fat that we need to be concerned about.
“The fat inside is the one that we’re realizing is harmful,” Somer said. “It’s much more metabolically active and produces all kinds of bad things. It’s the kind of fat that’s linked to high cardiovascular risk.”
The difference between visible and invisible fat
While obesity is linked to myriad health problems, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, all fat is not created equal.
Subcutaneous fat is the visible kind that we’re used to seeing, the stuff that you can pinch on your stomach or thighs. This type of fat lives under the skin, and is relatively safe, health-wise. Pear-shaped people, who have smaller waists and store weight in their hips, also tend to have more subcutaneous fat.
Apple-shaped people, who store weight around their mid-sections, tend to have more visceral fat. Visceral fat is internal, and you can’t usually tell if someone has it just by looking. Visceral fat collects around organs such as the stomach, intestine, spleen and kidneys.
“You don’t see this fat early on,” Somers explained. If you’re lean and you start putting on weight, without seeing any visible outward changes, that could be visceral fat. “Then suddenly it starts bulging out and that’s when the belly starts hanging out,” he said.