March 22, 2022

Body Composition

Visceral Fat vs. Subcutaneous Fat — What’s the Difference?

Read Time < 1 minute

This clip is from “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) episode #17, originally released on November 9, 2020.

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Show Notes

The different types of body fat [9:00]

Not all fat is created equal.

Subcutaneous fat = fat between the skin and the fascia 

  • The inability to see the six-pack of abs is really an issue of either too small rectus abdominis muscle group and/or too much subcutaneous fat surrounding the rectus abdominis muscles

Visceral fat = fat beneath the fascia near the vital organs

  • Fascia is the corset that is holding you together—it’s beneath your muscles and inside the fascia is where your organs exist

Figure 3. Image showing abdominal wall fascia. Image credit:

  • Visceral fat is found around the liver, the kidneys, the spleen, and the gut. 
  • Visceral fat is incredibly associated with metabolic disease
  • In an ideal world, rather than tracking our BF%, we would instead track what % of our fat was visceral fat
  • Although there are no standard reference ranges for visceral fat, in healthy individuals, values are generally less than 1 kg for younger individuals and between 1-2 kg for older individuals. (source, source, source) However, these cohort study approximations. 

Figure 4. Subcutaneous fat vs. visceral fat. Image credit:

Using MRI

  • MRI is able to see visceral fat
  • It’s also non-invasive, no radiation
  • But again, not practical from a cost and availability standpoint as of today

Selected Links / Related Material

Visceral fat is incredibly associated with metabolic disease: Contribution of adipose tissue to health span and longevity (Huffman and Barzilai, 2010) [10:00]


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