Fat stored on your hips, thighs, and belly is far more than a passive, energy bank. It’s a biologically active endocrine and immune organ and the body’s primary regulator of lipid and glucose balance.
I’m of the belief that if we can better understand the personality of fat, we’ll have an easier time keeping it off. Here are some facts about body fat that may help you keep it off, for good.
1. Belly fat is linked with inflammation
Sick fat, or the deep, intra-abdominal or visceral adipose tissue (VAT), is very close to intestinal organs and is highly inflammatory. In contrast, subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) on the upper arms, back, legs, and buttocks has little, if any, harmful immune or metabolic effects. There is a major problem with inflamed fat: inflammation creates insulin resistance, which affects our metabolism.
2. Just because you’re skinny, doesn't mean you don’t have “sick fat”
Skinny people often fly under the radar despite being metabolically obese, or “skinny fat.” In 1981 Boston University based Neil Ruderman, MD was the first to propose that not all lean people are metabolically healthy and subsequently coined the term ‘metabolically obese, normal weight’ (MONW). In Dr. Ruderman’s earlier writings he noted that adult-onset obesity is associated with hypersinsulinemia and an increase in fat cell size. However, he also observed that up to 20% of normal-weight individuals that went on to develop type-2 diabetes presented with the same set of metabolic derangements–that is, elevated insulin and increased fat cell size–previously understood to only be a problem with obesity.
“Adipocytes in visceral fat, the favored site, in addition to storing fat, secrete adipokines and also attract and activate macrophages that release enzymes and cytokines that further drive the proinflammatory state.”—Jesse Roth, MD”
3. Not All Fat is Bad
Brown fat is sometimes called baby fat, since it's abundant in infants, and it was once thought to offer little benefit to adults. Recently though, brown fat is undergoing a resurgence of research interest. It plays a critical role in producing body heat, an activity called thermogenesis, which is why it's so important to a baby. And studies suggest brown fat plays a critical role in regulating triglycerides, which accumulate in obesity and diabetes and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. Since brown fat decreases as body mass, particularly belly fat, increases, researchers think brown fat may help prevent obesity.
4. Fructose increases belly fat
Several studies have compared drinks sweetened with either glucose or fructose and have found that fructose leads to a greater increase in unhealthy visceral belly fat, blood triglycerides, and atherogenic, or cardiovascular-disease promoting lipids, to a much greater extent than does glucose.
5. Enlarged fat cells are linked with inflammation
Fat cells enlarge with weight gain and age. When fat cells become enlarged, their oxygen supply is inadequate (hypoxic). The cells become inflamed and begin releasing hormones, such as leptin. Immune cells infiltrate the fatty, or adipose, tissue and spew free fatty acids into the body. A vicious cycle of inflammation and metabolic imbalances ensue.
6. Leaky gut is linked with higher levels of belly fat
In 2011, research published in the journal Obesity revealed for the first time that the permeability of the intestinal wall is associated with abdominal fat. When bacteria (or bacterial fragments like endotoxin) are able to slip between the cells lining the intestinal wall and enter the sterile environment of your bloodstream, your immune system reacts, causing inflammation and predisposing you to fat gain and metabolic imbalances.
7. Stress and high levels of cortisol will make you fat
Cortisol sabotages our waistline in two additional ways: first, by preferentially depositing fat in the abdominal region; and second, by stimulating appetite and creating a preference for calorie-rich foods and carbohydrates.
8. Exposure to environmental toxins increase the growth of body fat
Study after study suggests that obesogens (nutritional, industrial, and pharmaceutical chemicals) alter metabolic pathways and promote fat storage and disease.
Obesogens include fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, certain fats, diethylstilbestrol (DES), bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, solvents, and genetically modified foods (GMOs).
9. Fast eaters have more body fat than slow, relaxed eaters
Studies have revealed how fast eaters are at increased risk for being overweight and having metabolic syndrome. Rapid eaters don’t fully chew their food and may not activate the neurological pathways needed to light the digestive fire. Two studies have found that chewing forty times before swallowing led to decreased levels of the hunger hormones and reduced belly fat.
10. High-intensity exercise is the best way to burn fat
Studies report that when overweight people do HIT, abdominal fat decreases by up to 48 percent and insulin sensitivity improves up to 58 percent in just eight weeks. A more recent study reported that after just three months of HIT for twenty minutes three days a week, visceral fat was reduced by over 17 percent in untrained, overweight men. One study found that just two weeks of HIT every other day, consisting of ten four-minute bouts of vigorous efforts on an exercise bike followed by a two- minute rest, increased fat burning by 36 percent.
11. Prolonged sitting promotes fat gain
Even short periods of physical inactivity are associated with metabolic changes, including decreased insulin sensitivity, attenuation of postprandial lipid metabolism, loss of muscle mass and accumulation of visceral adipose tissue.