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What Are the Different Types of Body Fat?

types of body fat

Body fat has gotten a bad rap over the years, especially from those who are trying to lose weight.  What many people don’t realize is that there are several types of body fat – some that are good and others that aren’t so good.

We’re going to examine the various types of body fat, what creates it, where they are found in the body, as well as their purpose in regulating our health. By understanding how our bodies gain and lose fat, you’ll be better able to intelligently embark on a weight loss plan that is not only healthy but has the best chances of success.

What is Body Fat?

Adipose tissue, also known as body fat, is a normal part of the human body that helps perform a wide range of life-giving duties including storing energy for metabolic functions. It can be divided into three different categories:

Essential – Our bodies require some fat to help regulate body hormones and body temperatures, protect our internal organs, and help absorb vitamins from the foods we eat. Without essential body fat we’d be very sick or close to death.

Reserve – Our bodies keep a “reserve” which provides an on-demand supply of extra energy. This reserve fat is not damaging to our health and provides additional energy throughout the day.

Excess – Excess body fat is considered to be any body fat that’s not being used for essential and reserve purposes. It’s stored in several places on our bodies, including our bellies. Excess body fat can lead to many health issues such as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, poor health, and even some forms of cancer.

What Creates Body Fat?

Body fat is created by both stress and the consumption of foods. Stress causes the hormone cortisol to be released and that in turn increases the visceral fat ratio in our bodies. This type of fat is most often found around our bellies, arms, legs, and other body parts and is responsible for obesity.

The fat contained in the food we eat is broken down and stored in fat cells for future usage. Our bodies are very good at capturing and storing fat. This means that the fat cells that aren’t used for regulating various bodily functions will quickly become excess visceral fat. 

There are many different kinds of foods whose consumption can lead to excess body fat. Trans fats are one of the unhealthiest fats and are found in processed and fried foods. Meals and drinks (e.g., sodas) that contain high levels of sugars can also cause rapid weight gain.

A few years ago, an NBA basketball player gave an interview in which he said he quit drinking sodas cold turkey and lost 11lbs!

Different Types of Body Fat

There are several different types of body fat. Some of which are vital to regulating our bodily functions and keeping us healthy, and others which are detrimental to our health.

Essential fat – As mentioned above, essential fat is good fat. It helps maintain proper body temperature, cell structure and protects our internal organs from harm. Essential fat cannot be lost without a detrimental effect to our health. For example, healthy women need around 10 to 13 percent of their total body weight to be comprised of essential fats.

White fat – White fat is the main form of fat in our bodies. It helps regulate hunger by producing certain hormones and has receptors for insulin and cortisol. White fat also serves as the biggest energy backup in our bodies. It can be found all over the body, including arms, shoulders, stomach, and legs.

Brown fat – While white fat stores energy, brown fat burns it. The main purpose of brown fat is to keep our body temperatures regulated at a comfy 98.6 degrees. It’s located on the back, upper half of the spine, and around the shoulder area. Brown fat was only recently “discovered” by science and some studies suggest that white fat can be turned into brown fat – thereby helping with weight loss.

Beige fat – Beige fat is not entirely understood by medical science, but it’s thought to be a combination of white and brown fat. Beige fat is found in the same areas as brown fat.

Subcutaneous fat – This layer of fat is found right underneath our skin and makes up around 90% of the fat found in our bodies. Subcutaneous body fat is most often used to measure body fat levels utilizing a skin-fold test.

Visceral fat – This type of body fat makes up our belly fat. It’s white fat that’s stored around various internal organs. Too much visceral fat can lead to several health issues such as dementia, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, and even strokes.


When it comes to body fat, there are good types and not-so-good types. Far too many people think all fat is bad – and this can cause severe health problems when they try to lose weight. By understanding which body fats are essential to good health and which aren’t, we can remain healthy while we lose weight.


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