Written by Patrick Foley
Fat also know as adipose tissue, is a a very complex organ with a profound effect on human physiology and pathophysiology (Evan d Rosen 2014). Until the 1940s adipose tissue was described as connective tissue. This began to change over the years as studies of adipose tissue revealed the that it plays a large role in nutrient homeostasis, calorie storage and transport of free fatty acids when fasting. (Evan d Rosen 2014). Further advancements through the 1980s and 1990s found adipose tissue contained adipsin, TNF-a, and leptin, leading to adipose tissue being regarded as a endocrine organ and the centre of homeostatis.
So, what does this all mean?
The above information is detailing how important fat is for living. Despite this fat comes with its own inherent risks when we have to little or to much. Studies looking into fat have increased in conjuction with the increase in type to diabetes and obesity, for the first time in history over nutrition has surpassed undernutriton with 1.7 billion being classified as obese. (Haslam and james 2005)
Risks of excessive Fat (Obesity):
With the growing prevalence of of Obesity in the world we should being to understand the inherent risks that come with increasing fat stores and for centretires the world has know these. Only recently the full scale of disease linked of obesity have become clear (Haslam D 2006) Below is a list of all the inherent risk taken from the study of Haslam D 2006.
Greatly increased risk (relative risk >3 people):
Gall bladder disease
Moderately increased risk (relative risk about 2-3 people):
Coronary heart disease or heart failure
Hyperuricaemia and gout
Complications of pregnancy—for example, pre-eclampsia
Increased risk (relative risk about 1-2 people):
Cancer (many cancers in men and women)
Impaired fertility/polycystic ovary syndrome
Low back pain
Increased risk during anaesthesia
Fetal defects arising from maternal obesity
With the above health risks for having excess stores of fat tissue in mind, we need to delve into the health risks on the other end of the spectrum, Anorexia Nervosa.
So you may be wondering... What is Anorexia Nervosa? A study by Gregertsen E 2017, noted that Anorexia Nervosa is a illness that often becomes chronic in nature, due to individuals experiencing multitude of detrimental health risks due to there low weight caused by restricted eating. So what are the inherent Health risks from Aneroxia Noervsa ?
Heart Problems, such as mitral value prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure
Loss of muscle
Menstral Cycle disruption (Female)
Testotrone decrease (Male)
(Risk factors taken from myoclicnic.com)
So as a individual what is considered to be the optimal body fat percentage?
This is a question this is asked a lot by individuals and its hard to give an exact answer as it does depend on the individual and their physiological and genetic make up and their own energy levels. This is why when looking at body percentages there is always ranges as can been seen below in the table.
Body Fat Guidelines:
Health Body % Fat (Women)
Health Body % Fat (Men)
21% - 32%
8% - 19%
23% - 33%
11% - 21%
24% - 35%
13% - 24%
So this is the point where you maybe concerned if you fit into the categories or are lower or higher than these ranges. There are various ways you can find this out be remember these are all estimations and not are all 100% valid. The Methods can been seen below.
Skin Fold test
Bio electrical Impedance
Seeing the amount of tests available may be quite confusing, but always consult a health professional to give some direction as they may have there own preferred way to analyse your body fat%
From the above details we can begin to understand that fat also known as adipose tissue plays a large role in our body as stated by Evan d Rosen 2014. Despite this us a individuals end up on both end of the spectrum of either having excessive fat stores or having servley deplepted fat stores, both accompanied which inherent health risks. With this in mind we need to begin to find a sweet spot and with the above table from https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=41373. We can see ranges to try an obtain, but always consult doctors or health care practioners, like ourselves before emarking on your journey to optimal body fat percentages!
Your body fat percentage: What does it mean? (no date) Winchester Hospital Available at: https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=41373 (Accessed: January 18, 2023)
Haslam, D.W. and James, W.P. (2005) “Obesity,” The Lancet, 366(9492), pp. 1197–1209. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(05)67483-1
Haslam, D., Sattar, N. and Lean, M. (2006) “Obesity—time to wake up,” BMJ, 333(7569), pp. 640–642. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7569.640.
Rosen, E.D. and Spiegelman, B.M. (2014) “What we talk about when we talk about fat,” Cell, 156(1-2), pp. 20–44. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2013.12.012
Gregertsen, E.C., Mandy, W. and Serpell, L. (2017) “The egosyntonic nature of anorexia: An impediment to recovery in anorexia nervosa treatment,” Frontiers in Psychology, 8. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02273