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Why Your Body Composition Can be Dangerous to Your Health

Experts reveal what to know about body composition. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We all know too much body fat can lead to serious health issues like heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, diabetes, cancer and more and one way to determine an accurate amount of fat is with body composition. Having a healthy body composition, which is the percentage of body fat, bone is vital for overall health and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share what to know about it and ways it can be dangerous to your health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Body Composition

Body fat analysis with electronic bioelectrical impedance scale at weight loss clinic.

Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet says, "The term body composition can be slightly confusing and is often used interchangeably with other terms. In short, it refers to the percentage of body weight from fat, muscle, and bone. This is important information to know because it provides insight into the individual's health. For instance, two people can weigh the same on the scale while having two very different qualities of health due to the percentage of fat they have versus muscle and bone. This is an example of how the scale doesn't always give the best picture of someone's health, it is possible to look healthy but have more visceral fat stored around organs than those with primarily subcutaneous fat."


Why Body Composition is Vital

Doctor measuring waist of patients, checking for Body mass index (BMI).

Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us, "Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, and muscle in the human body. It is essential because it affects a person's health, appearance, and ability to perform physical tasks. A high percentage of body fat is associated with obesity, leading to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. A low percentage of body fat can also be unhealthy and can lead to conditions such as anorexia and osteoporosis. Muscle mass also plays a role in body composition. People with more muscle mass tend to be stronger and have more endurance than those with less muscle mass. Bone density is also a factor in body composition. People with denser bones are less likely to suffer fractures and other bone-related injuries. Body composition is important because it impacts a person's health, appearance, and ability to perform physical tasks. People can decide how to maintain or improve their health by understanding body composition."


The Two Primary Types of Body Fat

belly fat, tape measure

Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD shares, "Body composition is used in health and medicine to describe the percentage and ratio of muscle, bone, and fat in the body. It is used as a reference number as one determinant of one's health, specifically body fat percentage. There are two primary types of fat on the body; visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat, also known as hidden fat, is located around the body's organs while subcutaneous fat is located directly under the skin before the abdominal wall. Visceral fat can be dangerous when levels reach a point where the stomach becomes protruding, also known as belly fat. This is also where the two primary classifications of body shape / composition come from; gynoid and android. The android shape is known as the apple shape, while the gynoid is more of a pear shape." 


What to Know About Android Shape

shred belly fat

Best explains, "The android shape, with fat primarily located in the visceral area of the abdomen, is more commonly associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Individuals with this type of body composition are typically men and post-mentapausal women, though with rates of childhood obesity on the rise this is becoming less associated with age and stage of life. This type of fat is associated with higher cholesterol rates, triglycerides, blood pressure, and body weight." 


Visceral Fat is Dangerous Healthwise

Overweight woman in tight clothes at home is trying to fit into tight jeans.

Richards emphasizes, "While both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat can cause health concerns, visceral fat wraps abdominal organs placing greater strain on them and the heart. This type of fat can also be more difficult to lose while also being hidden at times giving the impression of health based on waistline alone. Visceral fat is linked to higher rates of insulin resistance, inflammation, and metabolic disease. This is true even for those with a normal body mass index (BMI)." 


Check Your Bone Health

Shot of a doctor explaining a medical procedure with a model to a senior patient while sitting in her office

Dr. Mitchell states, "Bone health is essential for numerous reasons. Bones provide structural support for the body, protect internal organs, and store calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for many bodily functions. When bones are weak, they are more susceptible to breakage. This can lead to pain, immobility, and an increased risk of injury. Additionally, osteoporosis (low bone density) puts people at a higher risk for fractures, even from activities that wouldn't normally cause bone injuries. Maintaining strong bones is, therefore, critical for overall health and well-being. 

There are several things people can do to promote bone health. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D through diet and supplements prevents osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise also helps to keep bones strong by stimulating new bone growth. Finally, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can also improve bone health. By taking these steps, people can help reduce their risk of osteoporosis and other bone problems."


Check Your Body Fat


According to Dr. Mitchell, "It's important to know how much fat you have in your body for several reasons. Excess fat can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. But measuring fat levels can be tricky. There are a few different ways to do it, but most of them require expensive equipment that isn't readily available. A simpler, though less accurate, the method is to measure waist circumference. This can give you a general idea of how much fat you carry around, and it's easy to do at home. Just wrap a measuring tape around your waist, ensuring it's level with your belly button. Once you have your measurement, you can compare it to some general guidelines to determine whether you're at a healthy weight. Remember, though, that these guidelines are only an available guide. If you're concerned about your weight or fat levels, talk to your doctor. They can give you a more accurate assessment and help you develop a plan to reach a healthy weight."


Check Your Muscles

woman with a strong core

Dr. Mitchell states, "Maintaining a healthy body mass is essential for many reasons. Low muscle mass can signify underlying health conditions, such as an autoimmune disease or hormonal imbalance. Additionally, low muscle mass can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and difficulty regulating body temperature. In severe cases, it can lead to muscle wasting and organ failure. For these reasons, monitoring your muscle mass and seeking medical attention is crucial if you experience a sudden decrease. While you may not need six-pack abs, maintaining a healthy body mass is essential for overall health and well-being."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather