Which Is Worse, Subcutaneous Fat or Visceral Fat?

Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021
Visceral fat vs. subcutaneous fat
Visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat because it is associated with an increased risk of various health conditions.

Visceral fat is considered more dangerous than subcutaneous fat because the former is associated with an increased risk of various health conditions, such as:

Health hazards of visceral fat are due to multiple factors including increased synthesis of inflammatory substances or cytokines. These substances generate a chronic inflammatory state in the body that leads to:

  • decreased sensitivity to insulin (insulin resistance) in the body,
  • hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis),
  • increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL; bad) cholesterol levels, and
  • decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL; good) cholesterol levels.

Visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat not only because it is biologically active but also because of its location in the body.

  • Visceral fat is present near the blood vessel (portal vein) that carries blood from the gut to the liver.
  • Visceral fat releases substances such as inflammatory cytokines and free fatty acids in the portal vein that takes them to the liver.
  • These substances have a detrimental effect on the synthesis of various blood lipids including cholesterol by the liver.
  • This leads to an increase in bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and a decrease in good (HDL) cholesterol levels.

What is subcutaneous fat?

Subcutaneous fat refers to body fat present right under the skin. It can be felt by pinching the skin.

Subcutaneous fat plays several important roles such as:

  • Keeps your body warm
  • Protects underlying structures such as the nerves, blood vessels, muscles, ligaments, and bones from injuries
  • Acts as a storage form of energy

Excess of subcutaneous fat, however, can harm you in several ways. It contributes to an increased body weight that may harm your joints, increasing your risk of arthritis.

Moreover, it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, liver diseases, and high blood pressure.

How to get rid of visceral fat

Visceral fat is fat present around your abdominal organs (viscera).

Although visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, it is relatively easier to lose than the latter. Visceral fat responds better to diet and exercise than subcutaneous fat.

You can reduce visceral fat by:

  • Consuming fewer calories than you burn each day (calorie deficit).
  • Performing regular aerobic and resistance exercises.
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking.
  • Including more fiber in the form of vegetables and whole grains in your diet.
  • Including lean protein to help you stay full for long.
  • Proper stress management.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Drinking sufficient water.

To lose excess body fat (both visceral and subcutaneous) safely, you may consult a qualified dietician. They may help you create a safe level of calorie deficit in your diet without harming your health.

Before embarking on any dietary or exercise regimen, you may consult your doctor. Some health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart diseases may need you to practice specific precautions in your diet and exercise regimen.

Never trust fad diets or crash diets when it comes to weight loss. So-called “herbal dietary supplements” may cause more harm than good to the body.


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Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021
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