What's The Difference Between Hard Belly Fat And Soft Belly Fat?

Not all belly fat is the same. So whether you're looking to burn belly fat to promote health or sculpting washboard abs, there are two different types of belly fat to look out for — hard belly fat and soft belly fat. And it turns out one type of belly fat may be more dangerous than the other.

Having a hard belly can be detrimental to health. Jean-Pierre Despres, a professor of human nutrition at Laval University, tells Men's Health that it's a ticking time bomb and "it increases your chances of heart disease and diabetes, and it's worse than smoking or having high cholesterol." This type of fat is known as visceral fat, and it's stored in spaces that surround your organs and intestines (per Harvard Health Publishing). As the belly gets filled with more fat, this area gets hard and thicker, and the hard belly is born. According to Harvard Health Publishing, this typically accounts for 10% of body fat.

Meanwhile, the other 90% of body fat is made from subcutaneous fat, or soft fat. So if you can pinch it and it's soft or wiggly, you're looking at soft belly fat. "There is some research that suggests you can be quite healthy even with higher amounts of subcutaneous fat if you are physically active and maintain a healthy diet," explains Steve Herrmann, chief innovation officer at Sanford Health, to Livestrong.

What are the dangers of hard and soft belly fat?

Hard belly fat is more dangerous than soft belly fat. It also may be an indicator that your lifestyle is too sedentary (though this may also be associated with subcutaneous fat). If you have too much hard fat, your diet and genetics may also be to blame (via Men's Health). According to Harvard Health Publishing, hard belly fat may increase a person's risk of cardiovascular disease, asthma, and dementia. Evidence also suggests it can increase the chances of cancer, specifically colorectal and breast cancer. Measuring your gut starting around the navel is an excellent tool to keep tabs on how much deep fat you're storing around your belly.

Despite subcutaneous fat being essential for overall body function, too much soft belly fat can negatively affect your health. Similar to visceral fat, high amounts of subcutaneous fat can increase heart-related health risks, points out Livestrong. It can also lead to imbalances of a hormone called leptin, which is responsible for signaling that you're full. These hormonal imbalances may lead to overeating.

The strategies for losing both types of fat are the same, notes Livestrong. Research shows prioritizing exercise, healthy eating, sleep, and stress management can help you achieve better health.