Body Fat: Why Women Need A Little Extra

Some body fat for women is necessary. Although nearly two-thirds of Americans today can be considered overweight or obese, body fat is essential for body functions. Starting at puberty, women need more body fat than men. This required fat is needed to start the menstrual cycle.

Fat Tied to Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is tied to the amount of body fat a women has. Women with less than 18 percent body fat are more than likely to develop amenorrhea or cessation of the menstrual cycle. During pregnancy, a woman’s body fat needs to increase between 25 to 30 percent to ensure that the fetus’ needs are met (for a healthy baby). If a mother does not attain a certain body fat ratio, the baby may develop an insulin deficiency later in life. After giving birth, a woman needs to lose this body fat weight since lean body fat is healthier. At menopause, a woman’s body fat needs again to increase to 25 to 30 percent in order to protect her against osteoporosis.

Fat Acts an Insulator

Fat plays an important part in keeping us warm. Due to their large muscle mass and higher metabolism, men generally are warmer in body temperature than women. Body fat acts as an insulator against the cold. It shields vital organs from the cold and ensures that the body does not shut down important body functions in order to maintain body temperature. People who develop anorexia nervosa grow fine black hair in order to compensate for the inability to produce body heat. This also burns up stored calories that could be used in performing body functions in the circulatory and digestive systems.

Fat is Stored Energy

Fat also acts as an energy reserve. Stored body fat can be burned up by the body for fuel, and it ensures body functions are performed in the case that a woman is not taking in enough calories. The body will start to break down other tissues, including muscles and bones, in order to find fuel if there is no body fat to break down. This is what happens in cases of  anorexia nervosa and orthorexia (an obsession in eating healthy to the extreme).

Society, especially Hollywood, has built an image that women should be pencil-thin. This is extremely unhealthy and even dangerous. Women especially need a certain amount of body fat to enable their bodies to function properly. Body fat needs to be controlled, but not eliminated.


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