One small article on ScienceNews (published online yesterday, Thursday, October 22nd, 2009) summarizes all you should know about fat in the light of recent scientific advances.
First. Women and men tend to carry fat in different parts of their bodies: men inside the abdomen near their organs, women in a concentrated layer directly under their skin (in scientific terminology used in an article, in their butts). When women hit menopause, their fat relocates to their bellies.
Second. Fat could be healthier or dangerous. Belly fat cells (i.e. men’s) go directly into internal organs like the liver and can inflame the organs. Hormones from subcutaneous fat (common to women) go into the bloodstream, where they do less harm.
Third. Male and female … rats have the same fat distribution patterns as humans and can be used as guinea-pigs in scientific research on fat.
Then. Post-menopausal women and men lack a molecule called estrogen receptor alpha that grabs on to estrogen. The studies of human fat cells suggested that when estrogen binds to ER-alpha, the cell is more able to break down fat. Women have more ER-alpha in their bellies than men do and that keeps fat away from that fat depot (The researchers mentioned fat depot at least twice in a small article. I think, they’ve invented a new scientific term.)
The main conclusion. Even in males, estrogen is important for marking the fat tissue to be relatively healthy.
Your belly is putting you at greater health risk. The fat in the butts (forgive me this scientific term) is healthy.