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The Truth About Fat

Everything you need to know about fat, including an explanation of which is worse -- belly fat or thigh fat.

By Kathleen Doheny

For most of us, body fat has a bad reputation. From the dimply stuff that plagues women's thighs to the beer bellies that can pop out in middle-aged men, fat is typically something we agonize over, scorn, and try to exercise away.

But for scientists, fat is intriguing -- and becoming more so every day. "Fat is one of the most fascinating organs out there," says Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a research associate at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "We are only now beginning to understand fat."

"Fat has more functions in the body than we thought," agrees Rachel Whitmer, PhD, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., who has studied the links between fat and brain health.

To get the skinny on fat, WebMD asked four experts on fat -- who, not surprisingly, prefer not to be called fat experts -- to fill us in.

Fat is known to have two main purposes, says Susan Fried, PhD, director of the Boston Obesity and Nutrition Research Center at Boston University and a long-time researcher in the field.


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