TOFI: Bringing a new meaning to ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’.

Could you be TOFI?

Think slim equals healthy? It’s a belief often promoted by our culture, however research shows this may not necessarily be the case.

‘TOFI’ -- standing for ‘Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside’, is a term coined by Professor Jimmy Bell at the Department of Medicine at London’s Imperial College. Professor Bell has been carrying out MRI scans on a range of body types – including typically slim people – at London’s Hammersmith Hospital for over 10 years and has found 40% of those scanned had a large amount of internal visceral fat, which is fat stored deep within the belly, located around a number of internal organs such as the liver and pancreas. This indicates that while many of those scanned may have appeared slim on the outside, they possessed the traits of an overweight or obese person on the inside.

According to Diabetes UK, visceral fat can play a particularly dangerous role in affecting how our body’s hormones function -- even more so than that of subcutaneous fat, which is the more well-known type of fat that lies directly under the skin. Research has repeatedly linked visceral fat to serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

How can you tell if you’re carrying excess visceral fat?

Six million Aussies fall into the ‘healthy weight’ BMI category according to the Medibank Better Health Index. And while having your weight under control is certainly a good sign for your health, it is worth considering whether you might also be storing excess visceral fat, possessing the hidden traits of a ‘TOFI’.

You can also get a gauge on whether you’re susceptible by analysing where on your body you generally carry your weight. For example, those who tend to carry weight around their abdomen as opposed to their hips and thighs may be more likely to carry visceral fat. If you’re concerned about your weight distribution, be sure to chat through your concerns with your GP.

How can you reduce visceral fat? While genetics do play a role in the presence of visceral fat, there are still steps you can take to reduce it. Just like subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is best tackled by a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise. Studies have shown aerobic, high intensity exercise such as running can be particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat.

For more tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle visit our collection Healthy Living.