It’s no secret that fat is frowned upon. Love handles, FUPA, gut – all words associated with that excess 10 pounds of “laffy taffy” you’ve been trying to drop since last fall. In fact, the way we talk about fat, affects women of all ages — even teens.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of 220,000 teens surveyed from Europe and North America – a fifth of whom were classified as overweight — nearly half of the 15-year-old girls believed they were “too fat.” An answer that proves to be a driving force on why eating disorders strike twice as many women as men.
However, despite the “dirty words” negative connotation, there’s one major key alert that’s gotten lost in the shuffle — fat is actually pretty important for your health. So, without further ado, let’s dive into why fat it NOT always the enemy.
What Does Fat Do?
“Fat is paramount to survival: You need it for warmth and insulation, for cushioning your bones and internal organs, for energy, and even to think,” Carl Lavie, MD, medical director of Preventative Cardiology at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans and author of The Obesity Paradox, reports Refinery 29.
Fat also strengthens the immunity system: “the cells that are precursors to fat cells, called preadipocytes, act like special immune cells that devour invading germs and bacteria, which helps explain why people who diet to extremes tend to get sick more often,” Dr. Lavie explains.
Not to mention, people who are classified as obese have a 6% lower risk of dying from serious illnesses. “One theory is that fat helps guard the body from damage, particularly as we age,” Dr. Lavie says. “Anytime your body is fighting an illness or dealing with a chronic disease, it requires more energy, so it makes sense that that extra fat is helpful.” This seems particularly true for those who are bootylicious, claims one Oxford University study. “The thought is this fat traps the potentially harmful fatty acids that can travel through your bloodstream to your heart,” Dr. Lavie says.
Here are three types of body fat you should know about to separate the”good” from the “bad”:
Also called subcutaneous fat, white fat settles mainly around your hips and thighs, sculpting curves and providing cushion. It’s also the most common type found in your body.
Why it’s important: It burns energy and produces a hormone called adiponectin. Research suggests adiponectin has anti-inflammatory and “insulin-sensitizing” properties and that may help reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Aka “good fat” burns energy even when you’re lounging – much like muscle. Although early experts believed this form of fat depleted during childhood, a 2009 Harvard study discovered that 7.5% of women and 3.1% of men had small amounts of brown fat lurking in their bodies. These individuals appeared to have healthier metabolisms.
This fat is the devil. Often referred to as “belly fat,” it somewhat suffocates your organs deep inside your abdominal cavity – releasing stress hormones called cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines. These toxins impact your body’s production of insulin. As a result, you run the risk of developing both Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
What to Do
Develop healthy habits, like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.