The term ‘body fat’ is a familiar one. However, most people associate this word to obesity, cholesterol and an unhealthy constitution. Although excess body fat content can have severe implications, the body requires a specific content of body fat for various metabolic and structural functions.

Body fat is produced in the body through the absorption of fats present in the food consumed. As the body breaks down these fats, two byproducts are released into the body – glycerol and fatty acids. The liver processes glycerol into glucose and stores it as a stock of energy. Fatty acids provide energy for all major tissues, especially for the cardiac muscles and the skeletal muscles. So, it is very important to include appropriate amounts of fatty substances in the diet.

Here are a few major functions of body fats:

  • Body fats help to maintain healthy skin and hair.
  • To maintain the right body temperature, it is essential to have adequate body fat. • Body fats are the storehouses of energy in the body.
  • Body fats are necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of cells.
  • Body fats have a cushioning effect on organs and tissues.
  • Body fats act as a shock absorber for bones.
  • The body will not be able to absorb many vital vitamins like A, E, D and K unless they are able to combine with fats.
  • Body fats are also believed to act as immunity boosters to protect the body from ailments.

Too Much Body Fat – Why Is It Undesirable?

Although the body cannot function smoothly without body fat, it is also important to remember that too much of body fat can negatively affect the body. Very often, the fats absorbed by the body do not burn off but get stored in the body. Such accumulation of body fats may lead to obesity that can then set off many other health issues like breathing difficulties, arthritis and heart disease.

To prevent problems associated with too much body fat, one must be aware of the current body fat percentage in the body and the ideal percentage required. According to the American Council on Exercise, body fat must ideally constitute 14 – 17 percentage of the total weight of a man. In the case of women, body fat must be around 21 – 24 percentage of total weight.

Knowing the exact fat percentage in your body can help in setting realistic weight loss plans. With the various fat measurement techniques available today, it is very easy to keep track of the body fat and adopt steps to a healthy lifestyle. Four popular fat measurement methods are Home Body Fat Scales, Navy Method ( click to see our version of the Body Fat calculator ), Hydrostatic Weighing and Skinfold Calipers.

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How Does Body Fat Loss Differ From Weight Loss?

Body fat loss and weight loss are two completely different concepts. Consider an instance of two individuals belonging to the same age group – an athletically built person and a normal person. Due to the extra weight of muscles, the athletic person may weigh more than his counterpart. However, the second person’s weight may be related to a higher content of body fat. Obviously, this person will be more vulnerable to weight-related issues than the athletic person. Therefore, it is important to lose body fat rather than trying to lose body weight. With new methods that measure body fat percentage, you can get an accurate report of your body fat and the amount you must lose or gain to remain fit and healthy.

When trying weight loss plans to lose body fat, it is best to adopt a plan that combines a good exercise regimen with a healthy diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a minimum of processed carbohydrates. You should keep the body fat levels to the ideal percentage and enjoy more health and happiness in your life.

Here are our body fat calculators:
YMCA Body Fat
Army Body Fat
Navy Body Fat
USMC Body Fat
Body Fat %


HealthStatus Team

HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators.The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.
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5 thoughts on “Body Fat – How Does It Affect Health?

  1. Jaime

    I have been working out consistently since high school (I’m now 24), am a certified aerobics instructor, can run 7 miles without blinking and am generally considered thin by those who know me. According to your body fat calculator and a recent skinfold test, I have 24% body fat. However, I really can’t lose much weight without appearing emaciated, and there really is no way I could lose fat from my hips; it’s solid muscle. Friends of mine who are less fit and look like they have more fat have lower percentages than me. How is this?

    Female
    5’7″
    135 lbs
    neck 12.5
    waist (narrow) 26.75
    waist (naval) 31
    hips 38

  2. HealthStatus

    Jaime, it sounds like you are in terrific shape. The most accurate measurement of body fat is hydrostatic weighing, all the other techniques merely give you an idea with about a 4% margin of error. Of course all algorithms like this cover about 80% of the population very accurately, then there is 10% that the calculators and methods will miss to the high side and 10% that are to the low side. You are within suggested healthy range and you are within a good weight range, that is really what is important. Don’t compare your body fat with your friends take them out to the track and run 4 laps and compare that number.

  3. Lifetime Health

    Do not despair Jaime. It is just that your body composition is not like the others. This is the reason why health issues and concerns are relative – different from one person to the other. You must understand that different individuals have different health concerns. Having that 24% body fat is not bad at all since your body also exerts efforts in doing some exercise.

  4. Ed Reardon

    Why can’t someone just tell her the truth. You can lose more body fat and if you did you would never ever look emaciated. You look that way when go into starvation diets and the body goes after muscle for energy. If you want everyone to write in and tell you that you look great and theres nothing you can do to drop fat -fine just know that is nonsense. Your friends have lower body fat because they eat better than you. Its 70% nutrition and 30% exercise which is why over 50% of all trainers and aerobics instructors don’t look athletic or lean. If your really 24% body fat then “its not all muscle”. You have great numbers, but this whole idea that its impossible for you to lose more fat without “being emaciated” is total nonsense.

  5. 6 of the Best Diets

    What are your tips for someone who wants to get started on a weight-loss diet?

    thank you

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