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Belly Fat continued...

But if you've got an oversize belly, figuring out how much is visceral and how much is subcutaneous isn't as important as recognizing a big belly is unhealthy, she says. How big is too big? Women with a waist circumference more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference more than 40 inches are at increased disease risk.

Abdominal fat is viewed as a bigger health risk than hip or thigh fat, Whitmer and other experts say.  And that could mean having a worse effect on insulin resistance, boosting the risk of diabetes, and a worse effect on blood lipids, boosting heart and stroke risks.

Thigh Fat, Buttocks Fat

While men tend to accumulate fat in the belly, it's no secret women, especially if "pear-shaped," accumulate it in their thighs and buttocks.

Unsightliness aside, emerging evidence suggests that pear-shaped women are protected from metabolic disease compared to big-bellied people, says Fried.

"Thigh fat and butt fat might be good," she says, referring to that area's stores of subcutaneous fat. But the benefit of women being pear shaped may stop at menopause, when women tend to deposit more fat in the abdomen.

Weight Loss and Fat Loss

So when you lose weight, what kind or kinds of fat do you shed? "You're losing white fat," Fried tells WebMD. "People tend to lose evenly all over."

The results change a bit, however, if you add workouts to your calorie reduction, she says. "If you exercise plus diet you will tend to lose slightly more visceral fat from your belly."

"We're at an exciting point in science," says Whitmer, echoing the input from other scientists in the field.

Whitmer and others expect more discoveries about fat of all types to be made in the near future.

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