What Types of Fat Are Easier to Lose?

The human body has essentially two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is found beneath the outermost layer of skin. This type of fat is highlighted most often because it is the most visible. Visceral fat is located deep inside the abdomen and surrounds major organs. The more visceral fat you have, the higher your risk for developing health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and heart disease.

Subcutaneous Fat Vs. Visceral Fat

In a 1997 “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” study cited frequently in medical journals, researchers divided a group of sedentary, overweight women into three groups. The control group did not exercise or restrict calorie intake. The second group exercised two to three days a week with some calorie restriction and the third group exercised three to four days a week with no calorie restriction. After 13 weeks, volunteers who worked out three or four days a week lost significantly more subcutaneous fat compared to those who exercised less frequently. Visceral fat decreased significantly in the volunteers in both exercise groups. The data showed that while any amount of exercise could reduce the deep abdominal fat, individuals must work out more often to reduce the outermost fat that’s responsible for your cellulite and spare tire.

Gender Differences

Your ability to lose subcutaneous fat and visceral fat may be predetermined based on your gender. In a 1998 study published in the journal “Obesity Research,” obese volunteers went on a severe calorie restricted diet. Men consumed 1,500 calories a day while the women consumed 1,200 calories. After 15 weeks, the men saw a greater reduction in intra-abdominal fat and a more pronounced improvement in risk for metabolic disorders. The women saw a greater reduction in subcutaneous fat.

High-Intensity Exercise

“Visceral fat yields fairly easily to exercise and diet,” reports Harvard Medical School, and “subcutaneous fat can be frustratingly difficult to budge.” However, dedicating yourself to a vigorous exercise regimen could reduce subcutaneous fat at a slightly greater rate than intra-abdominal fat. In the study, 175 overweight, sedentary men and women were divided into four groups that varied from no exercise to high-intensity exercise. While even the lowest dose of exercise resulted in no weight gained for the volunteers, those who exercised at a level comparable to 17 miles of jogging a week saw a significant reduction in subcutaneous and visceral fat. Overall, the volunteers saw a 6.9 percent decrease in intra-abdominal fat and a 7 percent decrease in subcutaneous fat.

Keeping Off Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is by far more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. According to the Harvard Family Health Guide, intra-abdominal fat is a key player in cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes in men and women and breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery in women. Instead of focusing on how to lose visceral fat, doctors would much rather work on prevention. In 2005, Duke University researchers found that people who are sedentary increase visceral fat by about 8.6 percent in six months, or four pounds a year. Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, six days a week, which is considered a modest exercise program, can prevent accumulation of visceral fat and, for some, reverse accumulation.