BODYFAT: 10 Things To Know

Written on 01/19/2020
Jamie Gilliam

A BUNCHIE WUNCHEE. The number of fat cells a person has in their body (on average 10 to 30 billion) is basically genetically determined. During childhood and adolescence, the number of fat cells can increase or decrease. After the teen years, however, the body tends to settle on its preferred number of fat cells.

FOREVER AND EVER. Once the fat cells in the body have been developed, they never go away. On the other hand, they can get smaller (by shrinking) with dieting. As such, the number stays constant, except for individuals who gain a lot of weight and dramatically increase the number of fat cells they have. Obese people, for example, can have up to 100 billion fat cells.

NOT THE SAME. The body has several types of fats, each of which has different chemical structures and different nutritional/health implications. For example, visceral fat, which wraps around the organs of the body, can be harmful, given that it is linked to metabolic disease and insulin resistance. Subcutaneous fat, in contrast, which lies directly under skin, is not harmful. As such, it serves a variety of positive functions, including storing energy, providing padding for the muscles and bones, insulating the body, etc. The third type of body fat is brown fat, which stores calories, burns energy, and produces heat.

SETTING THE BAR. How much body fat a person has depends on several factors, some of which cannot be changed (e.g., genes, gender, age, and bone structure) and some of which can (e.g., active versus sedentary lifestyle). Ideally, the body needs a certain level of body fat. Too much body fat is associated with chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. By contrast, too little body fat poses a different set of health-related issues.

A HEALTHY SPECTRUM. A desirable range of body fat levels for average healthy adults, regardless of age, is 20% to 25% for women and 15% to 20% for men. More than 32% and 25% for women and men, respectively, is considered to present an increased risk of disease. In turn, having less than 14% and 8% of body fat for women and men, respectively, also carries a variety of health-related risks.

WINNING THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE. Research has shown that the best strategy for losing abdominal fat is to limit the number of calories consumed and to burn calories by exercising on a regular basis. With regard to physical activity, combining strength training with cardio exercise is the recommended regimen for achieving the desired waistline, as opposed to focusing simply on one or the other.

AGE-RELATED FAT GAIN IS A CHOICE. As people age, their level of metabolism slows, and the amount of body fat they tend to have (particularly around their midsection) increases. Such a weight gain, however, is not inevitable. Rather, older adults need to combat this tendency by being proactive in their efforts to stave off any such fat gain by exercising on a regular basis and consuming fewer calories.

A BIG FAT LIE. Eating fat does not make a person fat. Consuming more calories than expended does. In reality, some fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated—are good for an individual, lowering both cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. By contrast, some fats—saturated and trans—are bad for a person, raising cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

YUCK. The unsightly dimpled skin that, on occasion, develops around a person’s thighs and fanny, as well as sometimes their knees and hips, is cellulite. As such, it’s really nothing more than fat that has been deposited beneath the skin. It is not caused by either toxins or impurities. Rather, the up to 90% of women and the approximately 10% of men who are affected by it can primarily attribute it to their genetic predisposition. No known cure for it exists.

POINTLESS. Trying to lose body fat from a specific area of the body—a process commonly referred to as spot reducing—is without merit. For example, performing sit-ups or crunches will not reduce belly fat. Instead, they simply strengthen the abdominal muscles, although calories are still being burned. The fat is still there. In reality, the only way to reduce body fat in any part of the body is to lose weight everywhere on the body.