In simple terms, fat reduction means losing excess body fat. It’s something you are advised to do when the fat percentage of your body becomes abnormally high. You don’t need intense medical investigation to confirm you are fat. One honest look in the mirror or simply using an online BMI calculator can tell you need some shredding.
If more than 25-30% of your body weight is fat, you are suffering from some degree of obesity. Chances are fat has begun to accumulate around your internal organs and the walls of your blood vessels. So, there’s a good possibility that in the coming years, you will develop diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many more.
Well, that kind of a future is miserable and also short. Severe obesity can reduce someone’s lifespan by more than a decade. So, take action today. It starts with understanding what body fat is.
Fat is one of the three things that make up our body mass. The other two are muscle and bones. The fat tissue is also known as adipose tissue. If you analyze it, you will find the tissue contains mostly adipocytes or fat cells.
As a chemical substance, the fat in our body is lipid. The commonest lipid in adipose tissue is triglyceride. For instance, when we say, someone has fatty liver, it means triglyceride has accumulated inside that person’s liver cells.
Types Of Fat
There are two common ways to classify fat. Based on location in the body, there are mainly two kinds of fat- Subcutaneous fat and Visceral fat.
Subcutaneous and Visceral Fat
Subcutaneous fat is the fat under the skin. It’s the fat you can ‘see’ or ‘grab’. Meanwhile, Visceral fat stays deeper within the body. It acts like a sheath or layer over our vital organs (or viscera).
Our liver, pancreas, intestine, and other vital organs have visceral fat. You cannot see Visceral fat and it is the more dangerous type.
White and Brown Fat
Fat can also be classified based on the color of the cells. From this perspective, there is White and Brown fat in our bodies.
Among them, White fat is more abundant. You can find them both subcutaneously and viscerally. Our chest, belly, and legs are the common sites of White fat. They store energy and play a role in the body’s metabolism.
Brown fat is less common. The presence of iron-rich mitochondria gives these fat cells their brown appearance. The cells can generate heat.
This brown fat plays an important role in increasing the body’s temperature in extremely cold environments. It is mainly found in infants. However, adults have some amount of it around their necks and shoulders.
The Role of Fat In The Body
Now, we know that your goal is fat reduction. But is fat all bad? Of course not. Fat is one of the most vital components of the body. Here are some of its important roles-
Fat is essentially concentrated energy. The body can get 9 Kcal of energy by burning a gram of fat. If your body is depleted of carbs (in dieting or fasting), the body starts breaking down fat to provide energy to the brain and other organs. This is known as the Ketosis process. (1,2)
The subcutaneous fat layer actively protects us against extreme temperatures. Meanwhile, the visceral fat acts as a cushion for delicate organs. Myelin sheath, a layer of fat, protects our nerves and helps in signal transmission.
Fat cells can provide immune cells the energy they need to engage in long battles with infections. Plus, fat cells have roles in the release of cytokines and the expression of various immune receptors. Also, our healthy gut bacteria have correlations with our body fat percentage. (1,2,3,4)
Our body fat directly controls the circulation of various hormones. These include insulin, leptin, testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, etc. This means fat can regulate your blood sugar, appetite, sexual mood, stress, and other factors.
Our body demands two kinds of vitamins- water-soluble and fat-soluble. You need your body fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Deficiency of these vitamins can compromise the quality of your bones, blood, and vision.
How Does The Body Store Fat?
For an effective fat reduction plan, you must understand how the body stores fat in the first place. When we eat something the digestive system breaks down the fat content into smaller particles.
An enzyme, called Lipase, in our stomach juices, helps with it. The food fat becomes two molecules- fatty acid and glycerol.
The particles ride through our blood vessels and reach various destinations. The lymphatic system absorbs fatty acids to fight infections. Cells use it for energy and damage repair.
However, when your food has more fat than you need, there is an excess of fatty acid and glycerol. So our fatty tissue recombines the excess particles into triglycerides and stores them inside adipocytes.
The goal of the storage is to use it later for energy, in times of starvation. But when someone constantly overeats, those times never come.
This is true for all excess calories. If you consume more carbs and protein than your requirements, the liver will convert them into fatty acid and glycerol. Which the adipose tissue will store as fat. The process is known as lipogenesis aka fat synthesis. From meals to fat storage- the whole thing can take up to 8 hours or less. (1,2,3)
Remember, many things influence the rate of absorption and storage of fat. Your unique composition, metabolism, hormones, food type, etc.
What Are The Causes of Excess Fat?
There are contributors to excess fat storage in the body. Identifying them can help with your fat reduction effort. All the different reasons can be summarized into these five factors-
Genetics and Family History
It’s not like if your parents are overweight you will be too, mandatorily. But there is a good chance it might happen.
Our genetics control metabolism, fat distribution, and eating habits. It also regulates the body’s response to stimuli, like physical exercise. All these are major determiners of a person’s body composition.
Now that doesn’t mean you should give up on your fat reduction goals if obesity runs in the family. Instead, try to find out which genetic factors are responsible and work to improve them.
You have an unhealthy eating habit if you consume more calories than your body needs. The type of food you intake is another important factor.
Unhealthy foods, such as fatty and sugary fast food and drinks, contain abnormally high amounts of calories. This is more than our system can handle in the eight hours following a meal. Which will store the excess calories as fat in the adipose tissue.
Another problem with sugary foods is that they are designed to make you hungry faster. Which means you will eat soon after a meal. This leads to overeating and obesity.
A healthy diet means three to four meals a day. Each meal can be 500-700 calories, depending on your activity and age.
The foods should be nutrient dense items like vegetables, lean meat, beans, eggs, and whole grains. Unhealthy foods contain trans fat, saturated fat, added sugar, and alcohol.
Most jobs today require you to sit at a desk all day, in front of a laptop or some other machine. Which means you have little reason to move around.
Sedentary lifestyles like these reduce a person’s energy expenditure throughout the day. Thus, the calorie you take in isn’t burned and you get fat.
Reduced physical activity also prevents your body from reaching the chemical environment necessary for fat reduction.
For instance, Lipoprotein Lipase is an enzyme that helps break down fat. But when you sit around all day, the production of such enzymes can slow down by as much as 90%!
To counteract the effects of long periods of sitting, try to move around whenever you get the chance. Use the stairs, walk a few blocks, carry groceries, and stuff like that. You should also dedicate an hour every day to physical exercise. (1,2,3)
Our hormones control fat accumulation, fat burning, and appetite in the body. So, hormonal imbalances often result in abnormal body weight.
One of the important hormones in fat regulation is insulin. If your tissues develop insulin resistance, the body can use less of the sugar you intake. The fate of the unused sugar is to be stored as fat.
When there is an imbalance in appetite-regulating hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin, your body doesn’t know when to stop eating. Which leads to eating disorders and fat gain.
Thyroid hormones are another example of this case. They influence your body’s metabolism.
Diseases can make you gain fat in various ways. They mess with your hormones and metabolism. Cushing syndrome, Polycystic Ovary disease, Leptin resistance, arthritis, and Prader Willi Syndrome are some of the medical conditions associated with excess fat.
Illnesses can make patients exhausted and fatigued. In some conditions, such as arthritis, limb movements are painful. so, fat gain results from no physical activity.
Some medical conditions can cause fat gain due to the medicines used to treat them. Antidepressants and Corticosteroids are good examples.
The first one finds its use in the treatment of clinical depression and psychological disorders. Meanwhile, Corticosteroids are the doctors’ choice when dealing with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
So, you can see fat and its fate in our body isn’t a simple affair. It’s a complex concert of various active factors. This means you need to consider multiple targets when planning effective fat reduction.
Understanding these basics might be enough for some people to create a fit lifestyle. But don’t worry if you are still lost. In the next blog, we shall share with you some proven and safe fat-loss strategies.