The Types of Body Fat and How They Are Stored

By John Papp

Let’s talk body is important to note that fat is called adipose tissue when stored in the body but for ease, we will use the two words interchangeably.

Contrary to popular belief adipose isn't inherently bad.

In fact, adipose is needed for many functions in our body–from the cellular level all the way up to macro level functions such as helping with insulation, storing energy for future use, and protecting vital organs. In fact, there are only a handful of places in your body that you can’t find the adipose tissue.

But there are differences in the type of body fat, where it is located on the body, and even differences between men and women. Let’s dive in.

The Types of Body Fat: Adipose

You may think that adipose is just simply adipose, but like many things in the human body, it can be a bit more detailed than that. Here is a quick rundown of the differences.

White Adipose: This is the stuff that you think of when you think about body fat. It is used for functions such as energy storage, insulation, and protection (think of this type of fat like airbags that pad important areas).

Brown Adipose: This type is much less known than its counterpart above but still important. Brown adipose is very metabolically active and plays an important role in regulating body temperature and metabolic rate. We won’t be focusing on it too much, but just know there is another type besides white adipose to explore in more detail if you wish.

How Body Fat Is Stored: "Good" and "Bad" Adipose

Location, location, location... This is where we start to see the differences between “good” adipose and “bad” fat.

Subcutaneous adipose is white adipose that is located closer to the skin and accounts for the majority of the body fat found in the body.

Visceral fat is where we can run into big problems if this particular area is very high. Visceral fat is the white adipose tissue that can be found deeper in the abdomen area, surrounding our organs. This particular type is very metabolically active and can affect hormone levels greatly. In fact, visceral obesity has been shown to increase the risk for all kinds of nasty consequences; cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, some cancers, and even complications due to infection during hospital stays.

To put it simply, if you have an “apple” shape, where more body fat is stored in the abdomen, you may have higher visceral fat levels. While if you have more of a “pear” shape, where more body fat is stored in the hips and thighs, you may have lower visceral fat levels. Now, this isn’t certain or definite without an actual test, but it is a rather accurate generalization.

To learn your visceral fat levels you will need a more in-depth body fat testing method than calipers or a handheld device. You will need a DEXA scan, CT scan, Ultrasound, or a test called an ADP test. Usually, you would find these tests in a clinical setting like a hospital. However, check with local public universities near you, as DEXA and ADP testing equipment may be available for the general public upon request.

Body Fat Differences Between Men & Women

As I’m sure you are aware, body fat tends to store differently in men and women.

Of course, women have to store body fat in certain areas in relation to childbearing. Generally, women have higher amounts of total body fat but are more likely to store excess adipose in the “pear” shape we discussed above, in the hips and thighs.

Men, on the other hand, tend to have less amount of total body fat overall but they store excess adipose in the mid-section with the “apple” shape.

So What Does All the Science Mean to Me?

As a coach and trainer that works with clients to decrease their visceral fat levels, I think it is important that you understand the basics. Try to prevent or decrease the amount of body fat around the abdomen area and understand that by doing so you may be able to decrease the risk of all kinds of bad side effects happening down the road. Of course, nothing is promised but why not try to control what you can control?

The great thing is you already know what can help you! Having a healthy and consistent diet, exercising regularly (using both regular strength training and cardiovascular exercise), getting adequate sleep, trying to control stress, and using proper supplementation when needed can all go a long way in your journey! 


Fox, C. S., Massaro, J. M., Hoffmann, U., Pou, K. M., Maurovich-Horvat, P., Liu, C. Y., . . . O'Donnell, C. J. (2007, July 03). Abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments: Association with metabolic risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study. Retrieved from

Gray, H. F., & D., H. D. (2003). Grays anatomy (16th ed.). East Molesey.: Merchant Book.

Karastergiou, K., Smith, S. R., Greenberg, A. S., & Fried, S. K. (2012, May 31). Sex differences in human adipose tissues – the biology of pear shape. Retrieved from

Shuster, A., Patlas, M., Pinthus, J. H., & Mourtzakis, M. (2012, January). The clinical importance of visceral adiposity: A critical review of methods for visceral adipose tissue analysis. Retrieved from

Trayhurn, P., & Beattie, J. H. (2001, August). Physiological role of adipose tissue: White adipose tissue as an endocrine and secretory organ. Retrieved from


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