Subcutaneous fat is normally harmless and may even protect against some diseases. Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the organs. Though it is not visible from the outside, it is associated with numerous diseases.
It is possible to lose both subcutaneous and visceral fat. While subcutaneous fat loss might be the goal for people who want to fit into smaller clothes, losing visceral fat improves health.
Contents of this article:
Fast facts on losing subcutaneous fat:
- If the fat is visible or can be pinched, it is subcutaneous fat.
- Subcutaneous fat is not necessarily a risk factor for health issues.
What causes it and is it hard to lose?
Subcutaneous fat sits under the skin, as opposed to visceral fat which surounds the organs.
A sedentary lifestyle and a lack of regular exercise are potential causes of subcutaneous fat gain building up.
Everyone has some subcutaneous fat, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, as well as genetics, affect the amount of subcutaneous fat each person develops. People are more likely to accumulate both visceral and subcutaneous fat when:
- They are sedentary, or spend a lot of time sitting.
- They get little or no aerobic exercise.
- They have little muscle mass.
- They eat more calories than they burn.
- They are insulin resistant or have diabetes.
Research increasingly suggests that subcutaneous fat can play a protective role, particularly in obese people with a lot of visceral fat. However, subcutaneous fat can be a sign of visceral fat. People with lots of subcutaneous fat often also have lots of visceral fat.
Both types of fat can be difficult to lose. Some factors that make fat hard to lose include:
- Insulin resistance: Visceral fat is correlated with insulin resistance, which can make it hard to lose both visceral and subcutaneous fat.
- Weight loss strategies: People with lots of subcutaneous fat often make the mistake of trying to spot-reduce the fat by, for example, doing lots of abdominal exercises. This strategy is less effective than trying to burn fat throughout the body.
- Inflammation: Some research suggests that visceral fat releases cytokines that increase inflammation. This inflammatory response is linked to weight gain and may increase subcutaneous fat.
Burning visceral fat can also burn subcutaneous fat. For optimal health, it is wise to target visceral fat.
Strategies for shedding subcutaneous fat
Recognizing the interaction between visceral and subcutaneous fat is key to shedding subcutaneous fat. Fitness strategies that burn fat in general, as well as those that counteract the negative effects of visceral fat, can maximize success.