Different types of fat? Review of the top fats and their differences!

No, all types of body fat are not equal. The top types of body fat include essential fat, brown fat, white fat, beige fat, subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat.

As a Nutritionist, I am on a mission to unravel the vague understanding of how fat is created and its role. It’s high time we shatter the myth that all fats are detrimental to our well-being. In truth, specific fats play an indispensable role in nourishing and invigorating our bodies.

In this article, I will cover in detail the several different types of body fat and how they impact your health. By understanding the roles each one serves, you can make informed choices to support your wellness journey. 

The key is to focus on what is truly beneficial and detrimental to your health.

Discover the key to a healthier you by banishing harmful trans fats, controlling saturated fats, and embracing vital polyunsaturated fats. 

Fat is not just about weight gain or obesity. It’s essential for our health and well-being. Good fats actually have a significant impact on our overall health.

Woman discovering the different types of body fats.

Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat: Guide to the Good and Bad Fats 

The two types of fat that I like to focus on are Visceral Fat and Subcutaneous Fat. Explaining visceral and subcutaneous fat to my clients can sometimes be a task.

Visceral fat envelops vital organs like the liver, pancreas, and intestines. It’s a ticking time bomb for your health, increasing the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Ideal Weight Calculator

Subcutaneous fat lies beneath your skin and tends to accumulate in the abdomen and thighs. Excessive amounts can lead to weight gain and health problems.

However, it also serves as a protective cushion for organs and helps regulate body temperature.

Understanding the Different Types of Body Fat

As an expert in the field, I assure you that your different body fats are far from equal.  Each comes with its unique functions and significant effects on your health. 

To truly grasp the impact that fat has on our health, it is crucial to understand their different types. White fat can lead to obesity-related diseases, but brown and beige fats offer metabolic benefits and aid in weight management.

White Fat

White fat, the essential and abundant adipose tissue, not only stores energy but also provides insulation for the body. These larger cells are predominantly located beneath the skin (subcutaneous) and around vital organs (visceral).

It stores excess calories from food intake as triglycerides, which can be broken down later to provide energy when needed.

White fat acts as a thermal insulator, helping to regulate body temperature by providing a layer of protection against heat loss.

This fat accumulation can devastate your health, causing obesity and triggering serious conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

By understanding the its role and making conscious dietary choices, you can maintain a healthy body composition and reduce the risks involved with obesity-related health conditions. It is not about eliminating all white fat but rather achieving a balance that promotes overall well-being.

Brown Fat

Brown fat, the attention-grabbing type, stands apart from white fat. While white fat stores energy, brown fat ignites calories to produce heat.

With its abundant iron-containing mitochondria, boasts a darker hue than white fat. These mighty mitochondria work their magic through thermogenesis, generating heat like no other.

Brown fat is a force to be reckoned with in weight management. It’s absolutely crucial because it dominates body temperature and metabolism like a boss by incinerating stored energy in glucose and fatty acids.

This unparalleled ability sets brown fat apart from all others.

Having more brown fat can help you lose weight and keep it off. When your brown fat is activated, it becomes a calorie-burning powerhouse that helps balance your energy levels and torches those extra pounds.

Beige Fat

Beige fat, also known as Brite (brown-in-white) fat, is a newly discovered fat type that combines the characteristics of both brown and white fat.

Unlike traditional white fat cells that mainly store energy, beige fat cells can burn calories like brown fat cells. This makes beige fat an exciting area to study in weight management.

Healthy fats

The Role of Body Fat in Health and Disease

Now that we’ve explored the different fat types, let’s discuss how they contribute to overall health:

Energy Storage

White adipose tissue is the ultimate energy reserve for your body. It acts as a powerful battery, storing excess energy for when you need it most – during periods of fasting or intense activity.


Brown adipose tissue plays a crucial role in maintaining body temperature by generating heat through thermogenesis.

Hormone Regulation

Adipose tissues secrete various hormones regulating appetite, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.

Organ Protection

Body fat provides cushioning and protection for vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.

While fat is essential for normal bodily functions, excessive accumulation can lead to various diseases.

The Health Implications of Various Kinds of Body Fat

Cardiovascular Disease

Excess visceral fat heightens your chances for cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and heart disease.

Type 2 Diabetes

An increased percentage of fat is associated with insulin resistance, a condition where cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

Metabolic Syndrome

The presence of abdominal fat and abnormal lipid profiles contributes to metabolic syndrome, a cluster condition that increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The Significance of Your Percentage of Fat

To truly assess your fitness and well-being, measure your percentage for a more accurate evaluation.

Understanding Body Fat Percentage

Your fat percentage is the key to understanding. It includes both essential fats, which are crucial for important bodily functions like hormone production and insulation, and non-essential fats, which store extra energy.

Knowing your percentage is essential for taking control of your health and making informed decisions about your fitness journey.

Why Your Percentage Matters

Better Health Indicator

Body fat percentage gives you a clearer understanding of how much fat you have relative to lean muscle mass, unlike weight alone which can fluctuate due to various factors.

Risk Assessment

Excessive body fat puts you at risk for serious health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. By knowing your body fat percentage, you can accurately gauge your vulnerability to these diseases.

Performance Optimization

Maintaining an optimal body fat percentage ensures better athletic performance and reduces the risk of injuries for athletes.

The ideal range for fat percentages varies depending on gender and age. It’s important to note that these ranges are general guidelines and may vary based on individual factors such as muscle mass, genetics, and overall health status.

How to Measure Your Fat Percentage

Forget about the deceiving scale. Measure your real fat percentage instead. It unveils the truth behind those numbers, giving you an authentic insight into your body composition.

Here are some effective methods to measure your percentage.

Skinfold Calipers for measuring fat percentage

Skinfold Calipers

Get precise and accurate readings with these innovative devices that pinch and measure specific areas of your skin.

They are affordable and easy to use and the only thing that affects accuracy is the skill level of the person using them.

Technique and Application

Using skinfold calipers involves a pinch-and-pull technique. The three most common sites for men are the chest, abdomen, and thigh, whilst for women, it’s the tricep, supra iliac, and thigh. For each site, there are precise targeting points where the fold should be pinched and measured.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

BIA assesses body fat by analyzing the electrical current’s path through tissues. It’s fast and non-invasive, but results can be influenced by hydration and exercise.

How Does BIA Work?

At the core of BIA is the principle that fat tissue has lower electrical conductivity than other types of body tissues. When a low-level alternating electrical current is sent through the body, muscles and other fluids with high water content—such as blood—conduct electricity well. This current encounters greater resistance—or impedance—when it passes through fat tissue.

A BIA device measures the impedance against known outputs to calculate the body’s resistance, which in turn, is used to estimate body composition. The whole process is quick, taking mere seconds to complete, and can be performed with handheld devices or sophisticated scales.

Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA)

Experience the revolutionary power of DXA, an advanced technology that harnesses the intensity of X-rays to thoroughly examine your body. It uncovers not just your bone density, but also gives you priceless knowledge about the precise distribution of lean mass and fat mass within you.

With its highly detailed information, DXA helps you to understand your body composition like never before.

However, it is important to note that this exceptional level of knowledge comes at a cost. DXA can be quite expensive. But isn’t investing in your health and understanding worth every penny?

How DXA Scans Are Conducted

The DXA scan itself is a quick procedure, typically taking between 10 to 30 minutes. The patient lies on a padded table while the DXA machine scans a targeted area, such as the spine, hip, or forearm. The patient must remain still during the scan to ensure the most accurate results.

Hydrostatic Weighing

Get weighed underwater with hydrostatic weighing. This method provides precise measurements, but it does require specialized equipment.

Pros and Cons

Hydrostatic weighing can be uncomfortable for some, especially those with a fear of water or small spaces, yet it remains a gold standard, particularly for athletes and the general fit.

Comparison with Other Body Composition Assessment Methods

Compared to other modalities, hydrostatic weighing’s main advantage lies in its ability to differentiate between bone and muscle mass and to provide a relatively low margin of error.

Air Displacement Plethysmography (ADP)

ADP measures air displacement in a chamber, fully clothed. It’s quick and safe with no radiation. But it would help if you had special equipment. Choose one method consistently over time. 

Advantages of ADP

The precision that ADP offers is one of its most important benefits. Here’s a closer look at why this technology is turning heads in health and fitness circles:

Accuracy and Precision

Compared to many traditional methods, which can be influenced by hydration levels, the time of day, and the operator’s skill, ADP remains consistent. It’s known for its reliability when repeated measures are necessary, making it an excellent research tool.

Non-invasive and Safe

Unlike DEXA scans that use ionizing radiation, ADP is completely safe and non-invasive, making it suitable for frequent use in many applications without risk.

Comprehensive Body Composition Analysis

From the moment the participant steps out of the BOD POD®, a comprehensive report is ready, detailing body fat, lean mass, and body volume. This level of detail is immensely valuable in personal training and clinical settings.

Next Steps After Receiving Your Measurement Results

Achieve peak health and well-being, regardless of your current results.

If you have a higher fat percentage:

Get personalized advice from a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to create an effective weight loss plan just for you. 

Include regular cardio exercises (like running or swimming) and strength training to burn excess fat.

Focus on a balanced diet with nutrient-dense foods while cutting back on processed and high-calorie foods.

If you have a lower fat percentage:

Consult with a fitness professional or personal trainer to develop an exercise program that builds muscle mass. Make sure your diet provides enough calories and macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) to support muscle growth.

Incorporate resistance training into your routine to stimulate muscle development.

Risks Associated with Low Body Fat

Lacking fat?

Don’t miss out on crucial nutrients. Inadequate intake or absorption can cause deficiencies in vital vitamins and minerals.

Hormonal Imbalances

Lack of fat disrupts hormone production and regulation, harming women’s reproductive health and causing hormonal imbalances in both genders.

A weak immune system

Lacking enough fat weakens the immune system, making us susceptible to infections.

What should your range be?

Ideal body fat levels can vary based on age, gender, genetics, and activity level. These factors play a crucial role in determining the perfect balance for your body.

For Men

Essential Fat Percentage (necessary for normal physiological functions): 6-24%

Fitness Level Range (optimal range for most men): 10-20%

For Women        

Essential Fat Percentage (necessary for normal physiological functions): 10-31%

Fitness Level Range (optimal range for most women): 18-28%

Tips for Managing Different Types of Fat

To achieve optimal health and well-being, it is crucial to comprehend the different types of body fat. Unlock your potential by following these expert recommendations for effectively managing your levels.

Prioritize a Balanced Diet

Conquer fat with a powerhouse diet. Fuel your body with vibrant fruits, crisp veggies, hearty whole grains, lean proteins, and nourishing fats. Say goodbye to processed junk filled with toxic fats and excessive sugars.

Incorporate Regular Exercise

Unleash your ultimate secret weapon to conquer stubborn pounds. Say goodbye to ordinary workouts and embrace a dynamic fusion of heart-pounding cardio and muscle-igniting strength training.

Get ready for an explosive fitness experience that will obliterate fat, sculpt your muscles, and leave you feeling unstoppable. Step up your routine with our revolutionary approach that combines intense cardio bursts with powerful strength exercises, pushing you to new levels of endurance and strength. 

Increase Brown Fat Activation

Boost your brown fat activation by embracing the chill, keeping active, and indulging in foods known to ignite this powerful fat-burning furnace.

Decrease White Fat Accumulation

Ditch the sugary drinks and trans-fat-laden processed foods. Opt for healthier cooking methods and indulge in fiber-rich meals. Witness the vanishing of stubborn white fat.

Practice Portion Control

Watch your portion sizes closely when you indulge in a meal or snack. Choose smaller plates and listen to your body’s hunger cues instead of mindlessly eating.

Stay Hydrated

Hydrate to rev up your metabolism and turbocharge fat digestion.

Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep soundly and effortlessly regulates your hormones. Say goodbye to those pesky cravings that lead to unwanted weight gain.

Manage Stress Levels

Combat chronic stress and melt away stubborn belly fat with stress-busting activities. Dive into the serene world of meditation, embrace the invigorating strength of yoga, and unlock inner peace through deep breathing exercises.

Seek Professional Guidance

Consult with a dietitian. With their expert guidance, you will begin on an empowering journey towards weight management victory.

While fat in each of these forms performs a necessary function, its excessive accumulation is where we encounter health problems. Recognizing the differences between subcutaneous and visceral fat is an important step toward a more targeted and effective health management strategy.

Embracing a Holistic Approach

Our understanding should not end with the knowledge of these fat types. Holistic health practices, including regular check-ups, mental health management, and a conscious approach to diet and exercise, form the parts of a deeply personalized and effective wellness plan.

In summary, no, all types of body fat are not equal. Each has its role, and when managed correctly, can contribute to a healthy, fully functioning body. Let’s leverage this understanding to craft individualized health and lifestyle strategies that bring balance to our bodies and vigor to our lives.

Nutrition & Diet