What Is Subcutaneous Fat?

What Is Subcutaneous Fat?

What Is Subcutaneous Fat?

Subcutaneous fat is part of the innermost layer of the skin, just below the connective tissue. The hypodermis is the deepest layer of the skin, and it helps regulate body temperature and contains blood vessels and nerves. Subcutaneous fat is one type of adipose (fat) tissue, the other being visceral fat. Each person has a set amount of subcutaneous fat and a set amount of lean muscle.

Subcutaneous fat, though it has several essential roles in the body, too much is damaging to your health. Keeping your fat levels in check is possible with a nutrient-dense, calorie-balanced diet and a healthy amount of exercise. A lot of people want to treat subcutaneous fat, which is soft and can be managed with surgery, liposuction, and injections. Lifestyle modification can be effective in some cases. Liposuction can be done to get rid of excess stuff from the body. However, visceral fat is something that needs to be kept under control through diet, exercise, and a better lifestyle.

Genes in SAT and VAT were determined in adipose tissue using RNA isolation, and expression of the genes was determined using two-colour chromatography. Results from this study showed that the tissue transcriptomes were different for SAT as compared to VAT, suggesting that the SAT might be important for protection against cancer.

Difference Among Visceral Fat and Subcutaneous Fat

There are two primary types of fat in your body: subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around the organs). How much subcutaneous fat you have depends on your genetics and your lifestyle, such as exercise and diet. People with a lot of fat around the abdomen have a lot of fat around the core organs of their body, even though they don’t look like fat on the outside.

What Role Subcutaneous Fat Plays?

Subcutaneous fat plays a certain necessary role in the body. Some of them are –

Energy Storage

It stores energy in the form of lysosome lipids and protects muscles from damage caused by potential impacts. The nerves and blood vessels use this deep fat layer to transport things between the muscles and other layers of skin.

Skin Structure

This fat layer merges into your muscles and bones, which is why it has so much influence on you.

Reducing Inflammation

Research shows that subcutaneous fat may provide a protective role in the body compared to the rest of the body’s fat content.

Producing Hormones

Leptin is secreted from adipose tissue, and it helps to control hunger and fullness. Too much belly fat can also be damaging, and can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, liver fat, and hypertension.

What Can Lead To Excess Subcutaneous Fat?

A person is born with layer of fat under his skin. Your subcutaneous fat depends on several factors, like your genetics and your health.


Your genetics now determine where and how much fat you store on specific parts of the body. It’s still being researched how much genetics play a role in autism.

Activity Levels

Being highly sedentary leads to having more subcutaneous fat storage, which is thought to be caused by extra calories being stored instead of used by the body.


Consuming more calories than you need to fuel your daily activity level can lead to a lot of subcutaneous fat. Also, highly processed foods can likely cause more people to gain weight from subcutaneous fat.

Insulin Resistance or Diabetes

Now even disorders like metabolic disorders are causing people to store excess fat, stalling their weight loss.


Women can develop aging problems, especially ones related to subcutaneous fat (shown above), and even more in certain areas of the body, like the stomach and abdomen.

Hormonal Status

Excess cortisol, a stress hormone, can lead to subcutaneous fat storage.5 The hormone leptin controls how hungry you feel and can influence weight gain.6

Do You Think Subcutaneous Fat Is Bad for Your Health?

Having a lot of subcutaneous fat, which is under your skin, can be dangerous, because it can contribute to health problems. Some of the major ones are –

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease and Strokes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Sleep Apnea
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Certain Types of Cancer

Are There Healthy Levels of Subcutaneous Fat?

You can use a few different measuring techniques to estimate how much subcutaneous fat you have. Some of them are – 

  • DeXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) is performed by a clinician.
  • Hydrostatic weighing is performed underwater in a lab.
  • BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis) is available on many home scales that provide weight, body fat percent, and other numbers. This may not be the most accurate.
  • Skin callipers pinch adipose tissue on certain areas of your body to measure your body fat levels. This is best done by a skilled practitioner for the most accurate results.

You can also measure your waist if you want. A waist circumference of over 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men is considered high, and it is associated with several health issues, like diabetes and heart disease.

If you want to find out how healthy your body is, measuring your waist to hip ratio can provide some clear insight into how healthy your body is compared to your other measurements, like your waist and hips. The most obese eaters usually carry more fat around their [abdomen] as compared to dieters; this also boosts their risks of obesity-related diseases.

Controlling the Levels of Subcutaneous Fat

The best way to control subcutaneous fat levels in the body is to practice ideal lifestyle habits like getting plenty of exercise and eating a balanced and nutritious diet. If you want to lower your fat level in your body, you are going to need to assess your lifestyle habits, including how well you sleep, your stress levels, and how active you are.

The USDA recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity. It is recommended that people strength train at least twice a week. Exercise is helpful for weight loss, but some people will need to workout more than others.

It’s important to maintain a regular exercise routine, so you can keep your body fat percentage at a healthy level. While lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise are important for maintaining healthy fat levels, calories in, calories out may be necessary for some people to lose fat.

How to Know One Has Too Much of Subcutaneous Fat?

Measuring your body mass index (BMI) will tell you whether you are overweight or not. This is in the ratio of your weight to your height. 

Normal Weight: BMI Of 18.5 To 24.9

Overweight: BMI Of 25 To 29.9

Obesity: BMI Of 30 Or Higher

Another way to determine whether you have excess fat is to measure your waist size. Men and women who have a waist circumference over 40 inches are at greater risk of developing obesity-related diseases, due to the impact of these epidemic conditions on the body.

Getting Rid of Subcutaneous Fat

There are two commonly and recommended method to get rid of the excess amount of subcutaneous fat. These are physical activity and diet.


We need to eat fewer calories than we burn to lose subcutaneous fat through diet. There are several ways to improve the types of food you consume. Many studies show a high-fibre diet is good for you, and should include healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. It should have lean proteins, like chicken as well as fish, good complex carbs (like sweet potatoes and brown rice), and low amounts of added sugar.

Physical Activity

Your body builds up fat under your skin (subcutaneous fat) to store energy. To get rid of the build-up of subcutaneous fat, you must burn calories. It’s recommended that you include aerobic activity in your daily routine, like walking, running, cycling, or swimming. Many people who need to reduce their subcutaneous fat are also busy with strength training like lifting weights. This type of activity increases lean muscle, which is great for your metabolism and helps burn calories.

Moving From Fat to Disease

We can measure subcutaneous fat in a variety of ways, including weight and waist-to-hip ratio. Currently, CT scans and full body MRIs are the most clear ways to determine if a person is healthy, but they are a lot more expensive and rarely available, so our doctors use estimates from waist size to help diagnose. Researchers take other steps to ensure that they’re measuring overall obesity and not just overall height in their study, such as checking measurements of weight and height.

Frankly subcutaneous fat can be implicated to various chronic conditions like –

Cardiovascular Disease

Several studies have shown that the effect occurs. When scientists studied women across Europe, they found that larger waists were linked to more than double the risk of heart disease. Even after controlling for other risk factors, the risk of mortality from prostate cancer was still more than double. Women who are a little over 2 inches over the waist-hip ratio have a gearing increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease by 10%.

Having higher subcutaneous fat volume also seems to lead to other conditions like heart disease. It’s known to cause higher blood pressure, blood sugar levels and more and has lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Combining all these changes, you get a serious risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.


Many studies indicate that people in their 40s who have higher levels of abdominal fat are nearly three times more likely to develop dementia (and Alzheimer’s disease) by their mid-70s to early 80s, compared with those who had the least abdominal fat at that age. Dementia was not associated with massive thigh growth.


In a large study of California teachers, women with high levels of subcutaneous fat (a waist circumference of more than 35 inches) were more likely to develop asthma than women with smaller waists, regardless of their weight. For both women and men, the risk of a heart attack was highest when both measures were high, suggesting that people might seek to lose weight to prevent heart attacks. Studies have shown that belly fat has inflammatory effects throughout the body and causes asthma, so the investigators believe this is the real reason that belly fat raises the risk of asthma more than other body weight.

Breast Cancer

When researchers analysed a multitude of studies involving women’s health, they found premenopausal women with larger waists in comparison to their height are more likely to develop breast cancer. Wearing large breasts also increased your risk of getting breast cancer, but for postmenopausal women this effect was insignificant, once BMI was considered.

Colorectal Cancer

People with the most subcutaneous fat have three times the risk of developing polyps, like precancerous polyps, than those with the least visceral fat. The relationship was revealed after other factors were considered. The researchers found that corns in the colon were associated with insulin resistance, which may be the mechanism that increases the cancer risk.

Losing Subcutaneous Fat

Your genes and hormonal changes determine whether you gain weight in particular places on your body, regardless of what you eat and how much exercise you get.

As young women, on average, their subcutaneous fat is less than men, but it increases again after menopause. You can’t change your birth weight, or your genes, or how “old” you feel. There are several ways you can minimize the accumulation of subcutaneous fat. It’s metabolized into fatty acids, which provides the best ability to burn fat at different areas of the body. Here are some approaches that seem to be helpful.

Exercise is an important way to reduce your waist circumference. The plan will still benefit you even if you don’t lose weight. Every 30 minutes of physical activity a day, do at least 20 minutes of moderate physical activity, like walking or bicycling. Motion in real objects displays new functions, giving people new ways to use them. For example, park farther from your destination and walk the rest of the way, use the stairs instead of the elevator, and stand while you talk on the phone.

Set a balanced diet that helps you stay at a healthy weight. Avoid products that encourage belly fat deposition, especially simple sugars like fructose-sweetened foods and beverages. Smoking more cigarettes makes you more likely to store more fat in your lower body.


Losing subcutaneous fat is easy. All you need to do is consult your physician and doctor before taking any step.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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