All Fat Is Not Created Equal

Andrew Siegel MD  9/29/2018

Thank you, Max Pixel for image above

My next few entries concern weight and diet. Clearly, obesity is unhealthy on many levels and I do not encourage anyone to carry excess pounds. However, fat can be advantageous under certain circumstances: see below 12 Benefits to Being Overweight (to be taken tongue in cheek).  Next week’s entry (to be taken seriously) will discuss a healthy eating style that  effectively can improve your shape and shred excess pounds that I am excited to share with you.

Some fat is good, but not too much

Having some fat on our bodies is actually a good thing, as long as it is not excessive. Fat serves a number of useful purposes: it cushions internal organs; it provides insulation to conserve heat; it is a means of storing energy and fat-soluble vitamins; it is part of the structure of the brain and cell membranes; and is used in the manufacture of certain hormones.

All fat is not created equal

Not all fat is the same. It is important to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.  Visceral fat–also referred to as a “pot belly” or “beer belly”– is  fat deep within the abdominal cavity that surrounds the internal organs.  Subcutaneous fat–also known as “love handles,” “spare tires” or “muffin top”– is present between the skin and the abdominal wall. In addition to the physical distribution of the fat being different, so is the nature of the fat. Although neither type is particularly attractive, visceral fat is much more of a health hazard than is subcutaneous fat since its presence increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disturbances.  This is as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is inactive and relatively harmless and generally does not contribute to health problems.



Thank you Pixabay, for above image of visceral obesity (“beer belly”)–NOT GOOD FOR ONE’S HEALTH


Image above, subcutaneous fat (“muffin top”), Attribution: Colin Rose from Montreal, Canada–MIGHT NOT BE THAT ATTRACTIVE, BUT GENERALLY NOT A HEALTH ISSUE


A beer belly is called a beer belly for good reason. One of the real culprits in the formation of visceral fat is drinking liquid carbs, whether sweetened beverages including sodas, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, etc., fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, cranberry, etc., and alcoholic beverages.  Liquid carbs have no fiber and are essentially pre-digested, stimulating a massive insulin surge and rapid storage as fat. It is much healthier to eat the real fruit rather than drink the juice, since the product in its original form is loaded with fiber that fills you up and slows the absorption process and also contains abundant phytonutrients.  You would have to eat 3 oranges to get the same sugar and calorie load as drinking a glass of OJ, and it is hardly possible to do that.

Visceral fat is a metabolically active endocrine “organ” that does way more than just create an unsightly appearance. It produces numerous hormones and other chemical mediators that have many detrimental effects on all systems of our body.  So, fat is not just fat. Visceral fat ought to have a specific name, as do other endocrine organs (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, etc.). This name should convey the dangerous nature of this “gland.”  I suggest “die-roid” gland because of its dire metabolic consequences, including risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and premature death.

The good news about visceral fat is that it is metabolically active so that with the appropriate lifestyle modifications it can readily melt away, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is tenacious and can be extremely difficult to lose.

12 benefits to being overweight

  1. Less prominent crow’s feet, wrinkles and nasal-labial folds
  2. More comfort in the cold winter months because of more insulation
  3. More likely to survive hypothermia if your ship should sink in icy waters or your plane goes down on a snow-laden mountaintop
  4. Better buoyancy in the water
  5. Better survival when stranded on a desert island because of the fat (stored energy) that will keep you sustained and alive long after the thin people have perished
  6. Less osteoporosis (bone thinning) because of the weight-bearing that keeps bones mineralized
  7. Strength because of all that weight-bearing—think NFL offensive linemen
  8. Built-in airbag for better survival of traumatic motor vehicle crashes and other forms of trauma
  9. More comfortable when sitting on tailbone or lying on vertebra because of better padding
  10. More stable footing under conditions of gale-force winds
  11. Curvier, more voluptuous bodies
  12. Cuddlier, like a teddy bear!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 



These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

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