As the battle of the bulge continues, it’s helpful to understand the difference between sub-cutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the loose, squishy fat kind you can grab and pinch with your fingers. Visceral fat on the other hand is the hidden fat, the hard, firm fat that is stored deep in the body, wraps around your organs, and builds up in your arteries.

Both types of fat accumulate due to a combination of factors such as genetics, diet, physical activity level, and hormonal balance. To overly simplify the how we gain fat, a calorie surplus, where you consume more calories than you burn, leads to fat storage. Those calories can come in the form of food, or liquids consumed, alcohol would fall into this category too.

Health Risks:

  • Visceral Fat: Is strongly linked with several chronic diseases. It produces inflammatory substances that can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. It is also associated with insulin resistance.
  • Subcutaneous Fat: While generally less harmful than visceral fat, in excess, it’s still a concern. Large amounts of subcutaneous fat in the abdominal area may still carry similar risks to those of visceral fat.

An interesting fact about Visceral Fat is that it tends to be more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat, meaning it’s more responsive to exercise and diet. The good news is that when we start a weight-loss regimen, visceral fat is typically the first to go. Unfortunately, Subcutaneous Fat can be more stubborn and might not reduce as quickly as visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is generally considered less harmful than visceral fat, though in excessive amounts, it can still pose health risks and cosmetic concerns for many individuals. Adopting a balanced diet and a regular exercise regimen remains the most effective strategy for managing subcutaneous fat.

In conclusion, while both types of fat can have negative health impacts, visceral fat is particularly concerning because of its association with a range of chronic diseases. The best approach to reducing both types of fat is maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

How can I tell if I’m struggling with subcutaneous fat or visceral fat?

Aside from pinching or poking the area you are concerned about, here are a few options. Subcutaneous fat is normally measured using skinfold calipers. Ultrasound would be a more advanced imaging technique for subcutaneous fat, whereas Visceral fat can be measured using imaging methods such as MRI or CT scan. You could easily use a tape measure and record your waist circumference at the level of the navel – not the narrowest part of the torso. When taking your measurements, be sure to record and measure from the same location each time to accurately measure changes. There are many scanning machines, handheld devices, and scales that claim to be able to accurately measure both types of fat.  

How does aging affect the accumulation of visceral fat in the body?

Visceral fat tends to increase as we age due to a variety of reasons. Aging is accompanied by several physiological and hormonal changes that can affect body fat distribution and composition. Here’s how aging, particularly in the context of menopause, influences visceral fat:

  • Hormonal Changes: As women approach menopause, there’s a decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen has a protective role in fat distribution, promoting the storage of fat in the subcutaneous regions (e.g., hips and thighs) rather than viscerally. With the decline in estrogen during menopause, there’s a tendency for fat to redistribute from subcutaneous areas to the visceral region.
  • Metabolism Slows Down: As we age, the metabolic rate generally decreases. This reduction means that, unless caloric intake is adjusted or physical activity is increased, there’s a propensity to gain weight, including visceral fat.
  • Loss of Muscle Mass: Aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even at rest. A decline in muscle mass can lead to a decreased metabolic rate, contributing to weight gain and potentially increased visceral fat.
  • Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin resistance tends to increase with age. This condition makes it harder for the body to use insulin effectively, potentially leading to weight gain and a preferential increase in visceral fat.
  • It’s important for women, especially those approaching or going through menopause, to be aware of these changes. Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, and managing stress can help counteract the natural tendency to accumulate visceral fat with age. If concerned, women should consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice and potential hormonal therapies. At Neighborhood Wellness Clinic & Medical Spa, we can help you manage all these concerns and even more.

    Subcutaneous and Visceral Fat in Aging Men: A Dual Challenge

    Let’s not forget about men, who are just as affected by body fat increases, especially as we age. As men age, noticeable shifts in body composition occur, most notably in the distribution of subcutaneous and visceral fats. Subcutaneous fat, the softer layer residing just below the skin, might diminish in some areas like the limbs, while accumulating in others such as the abdomen. Meanwhile, the more insidious visceral fat, tucked deep within the abdominal cavity and encasing vital organs, tends to increase. Unlike its subcutaneous counterpart, visceral fat isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s metabolically active and has been linked to a host of health issues, from insulin resistance to cardiovascular diseases. The testosterone decline in older men can exacerbate this fat redistribution, making understanding and addressing these changes crucial for maintaining health in the golden years.

    What can we really do to reduce the amount of fat in our body?


    Get your Hormones tested.

    Pay attention to your hormones, they impact so many things in your body (male or female) specifically your sleep, weight gain, energy (or lack thereof) and muscle mass, which will directly affect your ability to realistically reduce your body fat.


    Build your Muscles!

    This is not aerobic exercise, we need to be actively building muscle, especially as we age. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will have a great impact as we age and fight this battle of the midsection bulge.

    • Metabolic Rate: Muscle tissue is metabolically more active than fat tissue. This means that individuals with more muscle mass generally have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR). A higher BMR can lead to more calories burned at rest, which can contribute to reduced fat accumulation and potentially reduce visceral fat when combined with a calorie-controlled diet.
    • Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Resistance training and muscle building have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Better insulin sensitivity can prevent excessive storage of fat, especially in the visceral region, and mitigate the risk of type 2 diabetes.
    • Direct Impact on Fat: While aerobic exercises are typically associated with burning fat, resistance training can also contribute to fat loss, including visceral fat, when combined with a suitable diet.

    Pay Attention to your Diet and Move More

    This sounds simple but you can do it, with some conscious effort. Controlling and reducing both subcutaneous and visceral fat largely depends on achieving and maintaining a calorie deficit, where you burn more calories than you consume. The best or most ideal diet is one that you can sustain long-term, meets your nutritional needs, and supports your health and fitness goals. However, there are some universally acknowledged dietary principles that can help reduce both types of fat:

    1. Whole Foods Focus with Fiber Rich Foods: Prioritize whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods. Consuming fiber-rich foods can help with satiety and promote gut health. This includes:

      • Vegetables and fruits
      • Lean proteins (chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef and pork)
      • Whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley)
      • Healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil)
      • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)

    Depending on personal preference, some individuals benefit from regular meals and snacks to prevent extreme hunger and overeating later in the day. For some, approaches like the Mediterranean diet, low-carb diets, or intermittent fasting may be beneficial, but individual responses can vary.

    2. Controlled Caloric Intake: Use tools and techniques to track and manage your caloric intake, such as:

    • Calorie counting apps: Better Me, My Fitness Pal, Lose it!, Calorie Counter, My Diet Coach
    • Food diaries: Calorie Counter – MyNetDiary, Noom, Foodvisor, My Diet Coach.
  • 3. Limit Sugars and Refined Carbs: High consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates can contribute to weight gain and increased visceral fat. Aim to:

      • Reduce sugary beverages, including sodas and many fruit drinks. Did you know some of those fancy coffee drinks can run up to 1,300 calories EACH? Oh, my goodness!
      • Limit sweets, pastries, and other sugary snacks. Look out for the hidden sugars/artificial sugars found in many of the ‘healthy’ protein shakes, Keto snacks, etc.
      • Choose whole grains over refined grains.

    4. Stay Hydrated: It may not seem as important but drinking sufficient water supports metabolism and can help control appetite. Ask yourself before eating, am I really hungry, or am I thirsty? There are some great hydration products on the market that can help – 2 of my favorites are alkaline water and Buoy Drops

    5. Limit Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages are calorie dense. A gram of alcohol provides 7 calories, which is almost double that of a gram of protein or carbohydrate. Consuming alcohol without adjusting total caloric intake can lead to a caloric surplus, promoting weight gain, including visceral fat accumulation. Alcohol can disrupt the balance of various hormones related to appetite, stress, and metabolic regulation, including cortisol and insulin, which can contribute to visceral fat accumulation. Alcohol can stimulate appetite and may lead to poor dietary choices (e.g., binge eating, choosing unhealthy snacks), which can further contribute to weight gain.

    6. Supplements and Superfoods: While no supplement or superfood can magically reduce body fat, some supplements might support weight loss or fat metabolism in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle. **Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements. The team at Neighborhood Wellness Clinic & Medical Spa is always available to answer your questions.


    In closing, understanding the nuances between subcutaneous and visceral fats, it’s paramount to recognize both the overt and covert risks they pose. While subcutaneous fat may be more visible, manifesting just beneath the skin, it’s the hidden visceral fat that carries significant health implications, including heightened risks for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Key indicators, such as an expanding waistline or a body shape shifting towards an apple-like form, can hint at accumulating visceral fat. But the battle isn’t lost; by embracing a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, growing and maintaining muscle mass, managing stress, and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, we can strategically target and reduce these fats. In doing so, we’re not just sculpting our bodies, but fortifying our health and ensuring a future marked by vigor and vitality.

    We are truly here to help. Share your questions, concerns, frustrations with me and the team at Neighborhood Wellness Clinic & Medical Spa, we will do our best to help you reach your goals. Truth be told, we have all literally been there in one form or another. Your concerns may seem insurmountable, but they are not and with consistent attention to the issues we can make a lasting change.

    Best regards,


    Linda Foresyth, LME

    Aesthetic Manager & Aging Human being

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