What is Body fat: its role, types, & percentage in the body?

Body fat and its major role in the body

Body fat is basically the fat portion of a human or any other living thing’s body. Basically, the human body is composed of several components like water, protein, fats, etc. Fat is the most variable constitute and a major component of the body. Body fat is stored in three different types, essential, subcutaneous, and visceral fat.

what is body fat

What’s body fat made up with?

When you put fat cells under a microscope you will see that fat cells look like little bulbous round things. Fat cells contain a single cell membrane and a nucleus like every other cell in the human body but many fat cells are made up of stored triglycerides droplets. Each cell consists of three fatty-acid molecules which are attached to a single glycerol molecule.

Why do we need fat in our body?

Body fat is one of the major components of the human body and it is essential for human health. It’s also an essential source of fatty acids that the body takes indirectly in the form of food, the body doesn’t make it on its own. Fat is very essential for absorbing many vitamins like vitamin A, D, and E. All of these three vitamins are fat-soluble vitamins, which means that only fat can absorb them.

What are the types of body fat?

There are several types of fats in our bodies. Some of them leave a negative impact on health and end up causing a disease while some of them are beneficial and essential for health and the body. Some types of fat cells are; white fat cells, beige cells, and brown cells. They all are stored as visceral fat, essential or subcutaneous fat. Every type performs a different role. Some promote a healthy impact on metabolism while some cause deadly diseases including:

  • Heart diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure

Different types of fat cells.


This type of fat cell has caught the attention of many people. So let’s talk on this side first. White fat cells are made up of large white cells that are stored in the skin of various body organs like the belly, arms, and thighs. These fat cells are basically storing energy and utilize it when the body requires energy.

White fat cells play an important role in functioning a hormonal activity some of them are given below:

  • Estrogen
  • Leptin
  • Insulin
  • Cortisol
  • Growth hormone

This type is vital for the healthy functioning of the body but excessive amounts of white fat cells negative impact on the body.

According to the American Council on Exercise, non-athletes men should have a body fat ratio of 14 to 24 percent, while non-athletes women should have a body fat ratio of 21 to 31 percent.


Brown fat is a type of fat found mainly in children, although adults still have very little amounts of brown fat, usually in the areas of the neck and shoulders. This type of fat cell burns fatty acid to keep your body warm. This type of fat burns a reliable source of fatty acids to keep you warm. Researchers are interested in finding ways to speed up the activity of brown fats to help people getting fat.

Beige (brite)

Relatively this fat cell is new to the research area. Beige cells work somewhere between the other two fat cells. The function of the beige fat cells is to burn fat instead of storing it like brown fat cells. It is thought that certain hormones and enzymes are released when you are stressed, cold, or exercising, which can help convert white fat into beige fat. This area of research really helps in maintaining a healthy body and minimize the risk of obesity.

Type of body fat

Essential fat

That fat which is essential for maintaining a healthy body is essential to body fat and this body fat is mainly founded in:

  • Bone marrow
  • Brain
  • Membrane which protects organs
  • Nerves

Essential body fat plays an important role in regulating hormones. According to the America council on exercise, females need at least 10% to 13 % of their body composition, while men need at least 2 to 5 percent of their body composition which comes from the essential fat to stay in good health.


This type is basically the combination of beige, white, and brown fat cells and they are present under the skin. Most of our body fat is made up of this type. When you pinch your chicks, thighs, belly, or hand, etc. actually you pinch that subcutaneous body fat.


Visceral fat is located near the viscera. That is why this fat is named Visceral fat. Visceral fat, also called “belly fat”, is the white fat that is stored in your stomach and in all your major organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and heart. High levels of fat can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arterial disease, and some cancers.

What is Body Fat Percentage?

The percentage of body fat (BFP) in a human or other organism is the total amount of body fat that is distributed throughout the body and multiplied by 100. Body fat is stored into three types’ essential body fat, subcutaneous body fat, and visceral body fat. Essential body fat is the essential fat that helps in maintaining hormonal functions and reproductive functions but essential body fat’s percentage is higher in women because of some hormonal and childbearing demands, the amount of essential fat is less in men. The fat stores in adipose tissue, part of which protects the internal organs in the chest and abdomen are storage body fat. There are many ways to find out the body fat percentage, like measuring with calipers or using bioelectric impedance analysis. Basically, body fat percentage is a fitness level’s measurement, as it is the only physical measure that directly calculates a person’s body composition in terms of height or weight. The widely used Body Mass Index (BMI) provides a measure that allows comparing the animosity of people of different heights and weights. Body mass index (BMI) is the weight of a person in kilograms measured in meters. A high BMI can be a sign of high body fat. While differences in body composition greatly increase BMI.

Typical body fat amounts in our body

Body fat percentage in an individual varies according to gender and age is called epidemiology. There are different theories on the relationship between body fat percentage, health, athletic ability, etc. As a result, various authorities have developed different recommendations for the percentage of body fat.

A graph from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows the average fat percentage of the body of American samples from the year 1999 to the year 2004.

average body fat percentage

Quick Stats: Mean Percentage Body Fat, by Age Group and Sex — National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 1999–2004

The body fat percentage is ranged from 22.9 % in males, aged between 16 to 19 years and the body fat percentage is ranged 30.9 %, aged between 60 to 79 years but in females, the fat percentage of the body ranges from 32.0 % between the ages of 8-11 and 42.4 % between the ages of 60-79.

The following table indicates how different the average percentage is for specific groups and categories.

The table is from American Council On Exercise

Essential fat10–13%2–5%

How to calculate the body fat

There are many methods to calculate body fat like USC, BMI, ISU, calipers, etc. but Calipers is the cheapest and easiest method to calculate body fat. In this method, only three spots of the body are used. This often uses in the chest area, abs, and thighs. The experts pull the skin upward and replace the muscles from the fat and measure the folds with calipers. This method is very effective and easy as well but they are some other methods that people commonly used to calculate their body fat.

Measuring Body Fat Percentage

Use the following formulas to estimate body fat. Two equations are provided, one using the American Customary System (USC) which uses inches, and the other the international system unit, specifically the centimeter unit.

Body fat percentage (BFP) formula for males:

USC Units:
BFP = 86.010×log10(abdomen-neck) – 70.041×log10(height) + 36.76
SI, Metric Units:
BFP = 495 1.0324 – 0.19077×log10(waist-neck)) + 0.15456×log10(height) – 450

Body fat percentage (BFP) formula for females:

USC Units:
BFP = 163.205×log10(waist+hip-neck) – 97.684×(log10(height)) – 78.387
SI, Metric Units:
BFP = 495 1.29579 – 0.35004×log10(waist+hip-neck) + 0.22100×log10(height) – 450

Fat mass (FM) formula:

FM = BF × Weight

Lean Mass (LM) formula:

LM = Weight – FM

BMI Method:

Body Mass Index (BMI), the common way to calculate body fat percentage. In BMI Method, there are some specific formulas of BMI which are required to estimate someone’s fat percentage. These formulas require one’s height, age, and weight. There are some following formulas that estimate the percentage of fat in a person’s body.

Body fat percentage (BFP) formula for adult males:

BFP = 1.20 × BMI + 0.23 × Age – 16.2

Body fat percentage (BFP) formula for adult females:

BFP = 1.20 × BMI + 0.23 × Age – 5.4

Body fat percentage (BFP) formula for boys:

BFP = 1.51 × BMI – 0.70 × Age – 2.2

Body fat percentage (BFP) formula for girls:

BFP = 1.51 × BMI – 0.70 × Age + 1.4

How to reduce body fat

Reducing fat is a bit difficult but if your main goal is to reduce your body fat then there is no need to worry about it. All you need is to adopt some healthy lifestyle habits. Some following body fat-reducing ideas will help you reduce your body fat rapidly.

  • Drink honey mixed with lukewarm water on an empty stomach
  • Do start counting your calories
  • Start eating more slowly
  • Sleep well
  • Add more fiber to your diet
  • Healthy workout routine
  • Healthy and balance diet


Body fat is one of the major components of the human body. It is basically the fat portion of a body and is made up of stored triglycerides and it is very essential for absorbing many vitamins and it has three types, essential, subcutaneous, and visceral fat. Fat has its three types as well; white, brown, and beige fat cells. Body fat can be calculated as well, there are many ways to calculate them like calipers, hydrostatic weighing, United States Customary System (USC), international system unit and body mass index (BMI) are some other ways to calculate body fat. Even reducing body fat isn’t a big deal, methods which are very beneficial in reducing body fat are; workout, a healthy routine, a healthy diet, by counting calories and a good sleep routine also help in reducing fat.