“I’m not fat... I’m armoured,” it says below a photo of a person clutching their belly fat.
In 2010 there were multiple media reports about Samantha Lynn Frazier, a woman from Atlantic City in the US, who survived a gunshot to her abdomen. Frazier’s doctors reportedly said her “love handles”, the fat around her belly, had stopped the bullet from doing more damage.
But is it true that 5 inches – or 12.7 centimetres – of body fat will stop a bullet from reaching your vital organs?
14 inches of fat only slows bullet
In 2007 the scientists and doctors who produce The Naked Scientists, a podcast based at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education in the UK, performed an experiment to find out how fat a person would have to be to stop a bullet.
They fired a steel ball bearing at the speed of a bullet into a 36-centimetre (14.17-inch) tube of gelatine, which has a similar density to fat. This was to simulate the effect of a bullet penetrating fat.
The 14 inches of gelatine only managed to halve the speed of the ball bearing, but not stop it. The Naked Scientists hypothesised that it would take at least twice as much fat to stop a bullet.
“That is 72 centimetres [28.3 inches] of fat and is somewhat unfeasible,” they concluded. “We think that bulletproof vests are probably more practical and probably cheaper!”
Photos, audio and video of the experiment are available on The Naked Scientists website.
‘No one has that much fat’
According to BBC science magazine Science Focus, a “morbidly obese” person weighing more than 125 kilograms might have 60 centimetres (23.6 inches) of fat at the thickest point. But “no one has that thickness evenly across their entire body”. Even a blue whale’s blubber “is only 30 centimetres thick”.
The story of Samantha Lynn Frazier is rare, according to Science Focus. “We can’t know for sure whether the bullet ricocheted off something else before it struck her.” – Africa Check
Republish our content for free
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.