Fat for most of us holds a bad reputation.  Believe it or not, researchers reveal that fat is one of the most incredible organs that has several functions in the body. The word fat is comprehensively used to describe all body fat, however, there are actually numerous types of fat present in the body. Some types of fat can have a negative impact on your health and lead to diseases, while others are beneficial and required for overall health.

The different types of fat cells are white, brown, and beige cells and they are stored as essential, subcutaneous, or visceral fat. Each type of fat performs a different role, some support healthy metabolism and hormone levels, while others cause life-threatening chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and hypertension.
Body Fat

Fat is known to have two key purposes which include:

Fat is the primary storage form of energy in the body and used as a source of fuel.

Fat secretes important hormones that control several metabolic processes.

Read this article to get an overview of different types of body fat.

White Fat

White fat is made up of large cells that are stored beneath the skin or around the organs in the abdomen, arms, buttocks, and thighs. These fat cells are the body’s main way of storing energy for future use. It also plays a significant role in the function of hormones such as estrogen, leptin, insulin, cortisol, and growth hormone. Some amount of white fat is considered vital for health, but the excess amount is harmful. Healthy body fat percentages range varies on the level of fitness or physical activity of a person.

The total body fat percentage in non-athletes men is 14-24 % and women should be in the range of 21- 31%. A body fat percentage higher than recommended can elevate your risk of several issues such as:

Type 2 diabetes

Cardiovascular disease



Hormone imbalances

Pregnancy complications

Kidney disease

Liver disease


Brown Fat

Brown fat is a type of fat mainly found in babies, that keep them warm. However, adults retain a very minimal amount, typically in the neck and shoulders. This type of fat burns fatty acids to keep you warm. Several studies have been conducted to find out ways to stimulate the activity of brown fat to prevent obesity.

Beige (Brite) Fat

Beige or brite fat cells are found to function between brown and white fat cells. They can help burn fat rather than storing it. Moreover, the scientist also believes that certain hormones and enzymes released when a person is stressed, cold or while working out can help convert white fat into beige fat. This can possibly prevent obesity and maximize healthy body fat levels.

Essential Fat

Essential fat is core fat vital for a healthy body and functions. It is found in the brain, bone marrow, nerves and membranes that shield organs. Essential fat plays an important role in controlling hormones that promote fertility, absorption of vitamins and regulation of body temperature.

The essential fat percentage required for healthy adult men is 2 to 5 % and women need at least 10 to 13 % of their body composition to comprise essential fat to maintain optimal health.

Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat is the fat mainly stored under the skin. It is a combination of brown, beige and white fat cells. Most of the body fat is comprised of subcutaneous fat, which are the one present on your arms, belly, thighs and buttocks. Some amount of subcutaneous fat is normal and healthy, but too much can lead to hormonal imbalance and sensitivity.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is also known as belly fat, the white fat that is stored in the abdomen and around vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and heart. An excess amount of visceral fat levels can elevate the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Benefits Of Body Fat

Body composition is essential, as it will help the body function well with the right percentage of overall fat. Maintaining a healthy body fat percentage delivers several health benefits including:

  • Temperature regulation
  • Balance hormone levels
  • Good reproductive health
  • Sufficient vitamin storage
  • Healthy neurological function
  • Boost metabolism
  • Stable blood sugar

How To Determine Body Fat Percentage?

Body composition can be measured using several methods. Skinfold measurements using callipers is one common method of analysing body fat percentage. It chiefly measures subcutaneous fat, where callipers are used to measure folds of skin on arms, waist, and thighs to estimate total body fat percentage.

Bod Pod is a device that is used to measure body composition, where bodyweight and volume ratios are measured to determine the total fat percentage of all types of fat present in the body.

Also Read: Body Composition Analysis: What Is It And What To Expect?

Bioelectrical impedance analysis is another method of determining fat percentage. This procedure involves standing on a device that uses an electrical current to measure the amount of lean versus fatty mass in the body.

Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference tests are also beneficial. However, they don’t give an exact percentage of body fat but provide an estimate based on the height and weight of a person.

A BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight, while a BMI over 30 is considered obese.

A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men is considered a higher risk of disease and indicates the presence of visceral fat.

Role of Diet

A common belief is that a high-fat diet causes an individual to gain too much body fat, however, this is only partially true. While fat is higher in calories than carbs or protein, a person needs some amount of dietary fat for optimal health.

Also Read: Not All Fats Are Bad. Eat These To Lose Weight - Infographic

Refined and highly processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fibre can also result in weight gain. A person who has diets that are high in refined sugars and processed foods are often prone to have a high percentage of visceral fat that is considered as an indicator of disease than subcutaneous fat.

While excess calories intake that are not required by the body will be stored as fat reserves. In relation to gaining or losing weight, the total number of calories you consume versus, the calories that you burn every day is what matters, rather than whether those calories are coming from fat, carbs, or protein.

Nutritionists and health experts recommend having a diet high in protein, complex carbs, and fibre with moderate portion size as the most effective to maintain a healthy weight and fat percentage, when combined with a regular workout regimen. Strengthening exercises are valuable in boosting metabolism, building lean muscle mass, and averting fat gain in the long run.