A spotlight on body fat, see the yellow parts surrounding the organs on the left?

Essential Information You Should Know


Do you cringe at the word “fat”?

It conjures up various images in my mind and I have to admit that it’s not one of my favourite words. This tends to trigger reactions from me. So what’s the story about fat?

It is a highly sophisticated collection of cells and it works like battery. It stores energy when we eat and releases energy when we need it. Fat is a communicator within our body, sending hormonal signals to our brains about how full or empty of energy we are. It is also an insulator for cold weather and cushions us when we fall.

How our body stores fat
It is stored as adipose tissue in nearly every region of our body. Did you know that a small amount of fat, about 300 to 400 grammes, is stored in the muscles? This is known as intramuscular fat.

The majority of our body fat is stored beneath our skin, known as subcutaneous fats and around the organs, visceral fats. The amount of fat stored in different parts of the body depends on our genetic make-up and individual hormonal balance.

The size of fat cells
Our fat cells are actually tiny. The size of a typical fat cell in an adult of healthy weight is about 0.6 microgrammes. A microgramme is one millionth of a gramme, so fat cells are minute. However, they can expand and that depends on the individual. It is estimated that the maximum expansion of a fat cell is 0.9 microgrammes. When they are full, fat cells have the ability to replicate, as it happens in obese individuals.

The risks of fat
The best way to see fat is through the MRI scan. In the picture above, you can see a layer around the edges of the body. That is known as subcutaneous fat and we have the most of this! Excessive subcutaneous fat causes a strain on our heart, joints and breathing.

Visceral fat is found around the liver and organs.

This is potentially harmful as it causes damage to the liver and metabolism, increases the risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke and even Alzheimer’s disease. Fat in the liver has been found to be as harmful those caused by excessive alcohol intake.

It’s not all gloom and doom! When you exercise at least 30 minutes every day, it helps to burn calories. A weight loss of five to 10 percent of your total body weight can help reduce visceral fat stores. To achieve that, your daily caloric balance (calories intake minus calories burned) needs to be negative.

I have an interesting quiz on my website that provides an indication of how easily a person can put on weight. You will also get a quick recommendation for each category. Click here to try.

Adeline Heng