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Visceral Fat Vs. Subcutaneous Fat

In simple words, visceral fat is a troublemaker, as it carries an elevated risk of heart ailments and chronic conditions like diabetes. On the other hand, subcutaneous fat found just below the skin is rarely a health concern. This Buzzle article further puts forth more differences between the two.
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Did You Know?
For every pound of fat you gain, your blood vessels lengthen by 7 miles. No wonder, too much of fat in the body increases the load on your heart, thereby, elevating the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Visceral and subcutaneous fat are the two types of fat that occur in our body. About 80% of body fat comprises subcutaneous fat. Among the two types of body fat, the visceral fat is a bad one, and when present in greater amount, it is like giving an open invitation to health problems. On the other hand, higher amounts of subcutaneous fat, in most cases, is not a health concern.
Visceral Fat
Visceral fat is situated deep in the abdominal cavity. It refers to an internal fat tissue that completely encases the vital organs located inside the body. As visceral fat lies deep, draping the internal organs, it is not possible to hold the fat with your hand. It is observed that a moderate amount of visceral fat is necessary to insulate the internal organs from external impact. For instance, the constant pounding associated with running could have put a lot of stress on the internal organs, had it not been for the shock-attenuating visceral fat encompassed around them. It is this shock-absorbing capacity of visceral fat that work wonders to keep the internal organs intact.
  •  However, there is little doubt that excess of visceral fat can be detrimental to health. People with a beer belly or a big waistline have a greater amount of visceral fat. So, as the waist size increases, so does the health risk.
  • Too much of visceral fat is believed to be instrumental in lowering the response to insulin activity. Insulin, as we know, plays a crucial role in controlling blood sugar. So, with the body becoming less sensitive to insulin action, it can certainly increase the chances of developing diabetes.
  • Also, as visceral fat lies close to the intestines, there is every possibility that it may readily enter the bloodstream and eventually narrow down the arteries and cause high blood pressure. A 2008 animal study published in Circulation, a scientific journal, showed that mice with excess visceral fat suffered from atherosclerosis, a condition that causes hardening of the arteries and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. 
  • According to a study carried out at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, this deep hidden fat can make a person vulnerable to heart attacks. Simply put, a high amount of visceral fat can elevate the chances of developing heart problems and even cancer.
  • We often hear liposuction being used to get rid of excess fat. However, this procedure cannot 'suck out' the worrisome visceral fat that encases the internal organs. The weight loss from liposuction is due to the removal of subcutaneous fat. So, despite undergoing liposuction, the risk of heart ailments does not reduce.
Subcutaneous Fat
  • As far as the location of subcutaneous fat is concerned, it is exactly opposite to that of visceral fat. This is because the fat rests just below the topmost layer of the skin, the epidermis. As it is found just under the skin, one can easily hold it with his/her hand.
  • Also, this type of fat located in the subcutaneous tissue is not as problematic as compared to visceral fat. Also, unlike visceral fat, it has not been linked to major ailments.
  • Subcutaneous fat predominantly lies in the thighs, back, buttocks, and back of the arms. Flabby thighs due to excess of subcutaneous fat may not give you that slim look, but this thigh fat is not as dangerous as visceral fat.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.