Search
  • Michaela Newsom

Location, Location, Location - where you store fat matters



When it comes to gaining weight, it turns out that where you store your fat maybe more important than how much fat you have stored. There are two very different patterns of fat storage that have very different metabolic effects and excess body fat becomes an issue when it is stored in the wrong place.


The gynecoid pattern (typified as the pear shape figure) stores fat on the hips and thighs. This type of fat is stored below the skin in our subcutaneous tissue. It is found all over but in particular on the bottom, thighs and hips. This is typically a female pattern of fat storage as it is associated with oestrogen.


The android pattern (typically apple shape figure) is when fat is stored around the belly. This fat storage pattern is problematic as it surrounds the visceral organs such as liver, kidney, intestines and heart and affects the way they function. This is typically a male pattern of fat storage as it is associated with testosterone (and also cortisol our stress hormone) however after menopause when oestrogen levels decline, women may notice a shift to increasing belly fat and a change in their figure to more of an apple shape.


When we gain fat we predominantly do so in one of two ways. The first is through ‘hyperplasia’ which is when we increase the number of fat cells but the fat cells themselves remain quite small and the second is ‘hypertrophy’ which is when there is an increase in the size of existing fat cells. In belly fat, fat storage tends to occur by maintaining the number of fat cells but increasing cell size and whilst in subcutaneous fat there tends to be an increase the number of fat cells whilst maintaining their size.


Rather than just be a way to store energy, the large, swollen fat cells found in belly fat become an endocrine organ in their own right. Belly fat has been shown to produce hormones and inflammatory molecules called adipokines that turn on inflammatory processes throughout the body. As the number and size of fat cells increases, the number of these inflammatory molecules being released increases and a state of chronic inflammation is the result. Studies have repeatedly shown that excess visceral fat is harmful as it is associated with an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress and research shows us that chronic inflammation is an underlying contributing factor to nearly all chronic illnesses.


One of the problems that happens when fat levels increase is that the inflammation created induces insulin resistance. Insulin is our fat storage hormone. When insulin is in town it effectively blocks the process by which fats are burned. This makes it almost impossible to lose weight.


Typically women have around 21-31% body fat and with aging as your metabolism slows down, levels of body fat are likely to increase.


It is the association with oestrogen, one of our main reproductive hormones, that leads evolutionary scientists believe that having gynoid fat puts you at an evolutionary advantage. Having more gynoid fat and a lower WHR is perceived as a sign of higher reproductive capability and therefore makes you more attractive to the opposite sex. Scientists believe this is genetically programmed into our subconscious and those with more of an hourglass shape will find it easier to find a partner.



A useful way to identify your fat distribution pattern is to measure your hip-to-waist ratio. To measure this, measure your waist around the biggest part of your belly (just below your naval) and then measure your hips around the largest part. To calculate the hip-to-waist ratio, divide the waist number by the hip number. For women, this number should be below 0.8 (and below 0.9 for men). Having a waist to hip ratio of one or above (i.e. a bigger belly than bottom) indicates an increased risk for disease.


This measure gives a much better representation of health status than the more often used BMI which doesn’t take into account muscle mass. Often rugby players have a BMI that puts them in the obese or morbidly obese category however, given they are elite athletes they are metabolically very healthy. Conversely, research has shown that around 8% of women who are slim, actually have too much visceral fat and are metabolically unhealthy.


As well as the impact of age and hormones on body composition, genetics also play a part. One study found that 50% of fat distribution maybe determined by your genetics. However, having a genetic susceptibility to gain weight doesn’t make it an inevitability. Lifestyle factors play a huge role.


The lifestyle factors that tend to cause you to store excess energy as belly fat include:

· Junk food such as fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, doughnuts.

· Unhealthy dietary fats, such as those found in fast, fried foods and processed and packaged foods.

· Being sedentary – with more of us working from home now we are becoming more and more sedentary.

· Chronic stress – cortisol activates belly fat and encourages fat storage around the middle.


All is not lost however. It is possible to achieve a healthier fat distribution, using the lifestyle strategies below:

· Have complex carbs and protein with each meal

· Avoid processed, pre-packaged foods as well as fried fast foods.

· Eat healthy fats daily – such as olive oil, avocados, oily fish, walnuts

· Move every day even if it’s just a 20 minute walk and avoid long periods of sitting down without getting up. Try setting an alarm every hour and get up and do a minute or two of stretching.

· Practice stress management daily either through breathing exercises or prioritising time for a mindfulness or meditative activity.

· Aim for 7 hours sleep a night

· Reduce alcohol intake as alcohol is metabolised by the liver and excess energy converted to belly fat. When it comes to gaining weight, it turns out that where you store your fat maybe more important than how much fat you have stored. There are two very different patterns of fat storage that have very different metabolic effects and excess body fat becomes an issue when it is stored in the wrong place.


The gynecoid pattern (typified as the pear shape figure) stores fat on the hips and thighs. This type of fat is stored below the skin in our subcutaneous tissue. It is found all over but in particular on the bottom, thighs and hips. This is typically a female pattern of fat storage as it is associated with oestrogen.


The android pattern (typically apple shape figure) is when fat is stored around the belly. This fat storage pattern is problematic as it surrounds the visceral organs such as liver, kidney, intestines and heart and affects the way they function. This is typically a male pattern of fat storage as it is associated with testosterone (and also cortisol our stress hormone) however after menopause when oestrogen levels decline, women may notice a shift to increasing belly fat and a change in their figure to more of an apple shape.


When we gain fat we predominantly do so in one of two ways. The first is through ‘hyperplasia’ which is when we increase the number of fat cells but the fat cells themselves remain quite small and the second is ‘hypertrophy’ which is when there is an increase in the size of existing fat cells. In belly fat, fat storage tends to occur by maintaining the number of fat cells but increasing cell size and whilst in subcutaneous fat there tends to be an increase the number of fat cells whilst maintaining their size.


Rather than just be a way to store energy, the large, swollen fat cells found in belly fat become an endocrine organ in their own right. Belly fat has been shown to produce hormones and inflammatory molecules called adipokines that turn on inflammatory processes throughout the body. As the number and size of fat cells increases, the number of these inflammatory molecules being released increases and a state of chronic inflammation is the result. Studies have repeatedly shown that excess visceral fat is harmful as it is associated with an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress and research shows us that chronic inflammation is an underlying contributing factor to nearly all chronic illnesses.


One of the problems that happens when fat levels increase is that the inflammation created induces insulin resistance. Insulin is our fat storage hormone. When insulin is in town it effectively blocks the process by which fats are burned. This makes it almost impossible to lose weight.


Typically women have around 21-31% body fat and with aging as your metabolism slows down, levels of body fat are likely to increase.


It is the association with oestrogen, one of our main reproductive hormones, that leads evolutionary scientists believe that having gynoid fat puts you at an evolutionary advantage. Having more gynoid fat and a lower WHR is perceived as a sign of higher reproductive capability and therefore makes you more attractive to the opposite sex. Scientists believe this is genetically programmed into our subconscious and those with more of an hourglass shape will find it easier to find a partner.


A useful way to identify your fat distribution pattern is to measure your hip-to-waist ratio. To measure this, measure your waist around the biggest part of your belly (just below your naval) and then measure your hips around the largest part. To calculate the hip-to-waist ratio, divide the waist number by the hip number. For women, this number should be below 0.8 (and below 0.9 for men). Having a waist to hip ratio of one or above (i.e. a bigger belly than bottom) indicates an increased risk for disease.


This measure gives a much better representation of health status than the more often used BMI which doesn’t take into account muscle mass. Often rugby players have a BMI that puts them in the obese or morbidly obese category however, given they are elite athletes they are metabolically very healthy. Conversely, research has shown that around 8% of women who are slim, actually have too much visceral fat and are metabolically unhealthy.


As well as the impact of age and hormones on body composition, genetics also play a part. One study found that 50% of fat distribution maybe determined by your genetics. However, having a genetic susceptibility to gain weight doesn’t make it an inevitability. Lifestyle factors play a huge role.


The lifestyle factors that tend to cause you to store excess energy as belly fat include:

· Junk food such as fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, doughnuts.

· Unhealthy dietary fats, such as those found in fast, fried foods and processed and packaged foods.

· Being sedentary – with more of us working from home now we are becoming more and more sedentary.

· Chronic stress – cortisol activates belly fat and encourages fat storage around the middle.


All is not lost however. It is possible to achieve a healthier fat distribution, using the lifestyle strategies below:

· Have complex carbs and protein with each meal

· Avoid processed, pre-packaged foods as well as fried fast foods.

· Eat healthy fats daily – such as olive oil, avocados, oily fish, walnuts

· Move every day even if it’s just a 20 minute walk and avoid long periods of sitting down without getting up. Try setting an alarm every hour and get up and do a minute or two of stretching.

· Practice stress management daily either through breathing exercises or prioritising time for a mindfulness or meditative activity.

· Aim for 7 hours sleep a night

· Reduce alcohol intake as alcohol is metabolised by the liver and excess energy converted to belly fat.


If you would like some more personalised support with your weight loss goal, please book a complimentary 30 minute consultation with me using the link below and we can get you started.

https://p.bttr.to/2XpccSb



Michaela x

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All