How does subcutaneous fat work?

Subcutaneous Fat: What Is It?

For subcutaneous fat is part of the innermost layer of the skin along with connective tissue. Also known as the hypodermis, this innermost layer of skin helps regulate body temperature and contains blood vessels and nerves. 1

Subcutaneous fat is one of two types of adipose tissue, the other is visceral fat. The amount of subcutaneous fat that each person has is different for his individual genetic makeup.

While subcutaneous fat plays many essential roles in the body, too much of it can harm your health. It is possible to monitor your lipid levels through a nutrient-dense, calorie-balanced diet and adequate exercise.

Subcutaneous fat in the body

Subcutaneous fat is located in the body under the skin and above the muscles. Men and women have different typical distributions of subcutaneous fat, with an increased proportion of women in the hips and thighs. About 90% of body fat is under the skin for most individuals.

The amount of subcutaneous fat depends on your genes and lifestyle. Diet and exercise play a fundamental role in controlling the amount of subcutaneous fat you carry.

The roles of subcutaneous fat

Subcutaneous fat plays some essential roles in the body.

Energy store : stores energy in the form of fat for later use, and protects your muscles from damage from possible impacts. Nerves and blood vessels use this deep fatty layer to move between muscles and other skin layers.

Part of the skin structure : in addition, as part of the innermost skin layer (subcutaneous), this fatty layer connects the middle skin layer (epidermis) with muscles and bones. 2

May reduce inflammation: research has shown that subcutaneous fat may play a protective role in the body in relation to the endocrine system and inflammation. 3

Helps the production of hormones : adipose tissue produces leptin—which helps control the feeling of hunger and fullness—and estrogen.

However, there are risks of carrying too much subcutaneous and visceral fat, including insulin resistance, hepatic stenosis, metabolic syndrome, hypertension. 2

What causes excess subcutaneous fat

Every person is born with subcutaneous fat. The amount of subcutaneous fat depends on several factors, such as:

Genetics: genetics plays a role in determining where and how much subcutaneous fat is stored in certain areas of the body. Exactly how much genes play is still being researched.

Activity levels: the feeling of extreme lack of movement is associated with the storage of more subcutaneous fat, that is, due to the storage of excess calories instead of using them for physical activity.

Nutrition: consuming more calories than you need to fuel your daily activity level can lead to an increase in subcutaneous fat. In addition, processed foods with large amounts of sugar and salt can cause more obesity in the abdominal area, including subcutaneous fat. 4

Insulin resistance or diabetes : metabolic disorders can cause excess fat to be stored and make fat loss more difficult.

Aging: aging, especially in women, can lead to a decrease in subcutaneous fat but an increase in visceral fat. 2

Hormonal status: excess cortisol, a stress hormone, can cause fat to be stored under the skin. 5 the hormone leptin controls how hungry you feel and can affect weight gain. 6

How your body shape changes with age

Healthy levels of subcutaneous fat

You can get a reasonable estimate of whether you have a healthy level of subcutaneous fat using a few different measurement techniques:

DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptivity measurement) is performed by a doctor.

Hydrostatic weighing is carried out underwater in the laboratory.

BIA (bioelectric impedance analysis) is available in many household scales that provide weight, body fat percentage and other figures. This may not be the most accurate.

Dermal calipers pinch adipose tissue in certain areas of the body to measure body fat levels. This is best done by a skilled practitioner to get the most accurate results.

You can also measure your waist. A waist circumference of more than 35 inches (0.89 m) in women and more than 40 inches (ca. 1 m) in men is considered high and is associated with many health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 7

It is important to note that in some cases the recommendation on waist circumference may need to be lower. A 2019 study of 209 Chinese men and 318 Chinese women found that increased insulin resistance is observed when the waist circumference is greater than 29 inches (0.74 m) for women and 32.5 inches (0.83 m) for men. 8

Measuring your waist compared to your hips (waist-to-hip ratio) can provide a clearer picture of your health regarding your body shape and fat distribution. Those who carry more fat on their stomachs—such as the apple shape—have a higher risk of developing obesity-related diseases.

How to control subcutaneous fat levels

The best way to control subcutaneous fat levels in the body for health is to practice optimal lifestyle habits, such as getting lots of activity and eating a nutritious and balanced diet. If you or your health care provider decides that you should lower your fat level, you will need to evaluate your lifestyle habits, including eating and sleeping patterns, stress levels, and physical activity.

The USDA recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate intensity, 75 to 150 minutes per week of high intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination of the two. It is also recommended to perform full-body strength exercises two to three times a week. 9 For weight loss, additional exercise might be needed, but individual requirements vary.

Sticking to a regular sports routine will certainly go a long way towards maintaining a healthy body fat percentage. 10 while lifestyle habits such as constant physical activity and adequate sleep are important for maintaining healthy fat levels, calorie deficiency may be necessary for fat loss to occur in some individuals.

Getting enough sleep and controlling stress levels is also essential for healthy body weight and body fat levels. 11

Verses under the skin. Visceral fat.

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