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To be metabolically healthy, you need MORE fat cells
Being fat is NOT a health risk per se.
It is a somewhat inconvenient truth, there are many seriously overweight people who are “perfectly” healthy. I put the perfectly in inverted commas.
If you are seriously heavy, you are putting strain on your joints and things, so you aren’t untouched by the additional weight, but you are not a heart attack waiting to happen.
Likewise, there are lots of people, who are “normal” weight, walking around with serious metabolic issues.
The catch all term to describe these people, is they are insulin resistant.
Being insulin resistant
Insulin resistance is a rather broad term, subject to different interpretations. At the end of the day, people who are insulin resistant, are awash in insulin. Insulin levels are high, morning, noon and night and……………….. this is where the metabolic troubles begin.
When is being fat unhealthy ?
So what is the difference between healthy “fat” people and unhealthy “fat” people ? It is the million dollar question. Understanding what goes wrong is key to tackling the metabolic fallout, which is compromising the health of millions of people.
A team of researchers from Finland took advantage of a rather rare biological phenomenon.
Sets of twins that are NOT the same weight.
Fat and thin twins
Yup…….. it happens. One twin is “fat” and the other is “thin”.
Same genes. Same lifestyle growing up. Different body composition.
So what did they find ?
When it comes to fat, genes matter
Well let’s just make it clear, finding these individuals was NOT easy. The scoured twin databases containing over 5000 sets of identical twins – ending up with 15 sets of twins, who differed from each other by at least 3 BMI points.
So, yes…………….. genes are BIG when it comes to body composition.
But, they are NOT EVERYTHING.
Unpacking fatness in twins
The team did a comprehensive assessment of each twins metabolic status and then…………………….. pinched a few fat cells, to look at under the microscope. Ouch !
The fat sample came from just under the belly button, relatively close to the surface. So the fat cells being investigated were subcutaneous fat cells.
The good fat cells
These are generally considered the good guys. Yes, just like cholesterol, there are good fat cells and bad fat cells.
I know if you’re overweight you see them as ALL BAD.
But the ones associated with metabolic problems are the visceral fat cells, these ones are located “deep” inside the abdominal cavity.
Getting hold of these is problematic, think invasive surgery !
So in this study, the team is looking at the goings on, in subcutaneous fat cells.
The fat cell look
As expected the fat cells in the “fat” twin, were fuller than in the “thin” twin. Nothing exceptional here.
But…………..when it came to fat cell numbers, two distinct patterns emerged.
It was close to a 50/50 split. In 7 cases, the fat twin had MORE fat cells than the thin twin and in 8 cases the fat twin had LESS fat cells than the thin twin.
Less fat cells in the fat twin
Yes, you read that correctly. The person was FATTER but with less fat cells.
Translated this means, the fat cells were SERIOUSLY full.
And it turned out, that this mattered.
The problem with less fat cells
The team identified this group, as the group having hypoplasia.
Hypo- in medical speak, always means TOO LITTLE. Those with more fat cells, were classified as having hyperplasia. Hyper- meaning MANY.
Here you can see the metabolic consequences of having TOO FEW FAT CELLS.
The big thing, insulin sensitivity is compromised – this is reflected by the HOMA score. Fasting insulin levels shoot up from 5.9 ± 0.8 to 9.0 ± 1.3.
With insulin levels in the stratosphere, metabolic chaos ensures.
The liver is jammed with fat. Cholesterol is “high” and there is a low grade inflammation.
Fat “fat” cells behave differently
When the team looked at what was actually going on inside the fat cells, by looking at gene expression patterns. They found the biology of fat “fat” cells was a little different from thinner “fat” cells.
Which probably isn’t that surprising.
In a word, fat “fat” cells were less sensitive to insulin.
What does it mean ?
We’re warring against fat cells, campaigning for their elimination.
But, maybe fat cells are the good guys.
They’re working hard to protect us from our dietary indiscretions. When they fail, we slide into metabolic dis-ease.
When fat cells fail
At this stage, we don’t have a clue as to why they fail to expand to meet the demand for fat cells.
If you’ve got metabolic troubles, the best you can do, is help those full to capacity fat cells, get their groove back, by draining them a little. And changing their biology, so they become less insulin resistant.
Need some help ? Download our free report.
NOTE : Unfortunately, it is not a magic bullet. Sometimes losing weight is NOT ENOUGH to fix the bad body chemistry.
Mice who receive a FAT transplant become OBESITY RESISTANT – this means, the little critters can eat what they like and never get fat. I want that….
When you glance at yourself in the mirror, do you call your fat cells out, maybe even call them derogatory names ? It might not be their fault…
FJo Soap was skinny, ate “right”, exercised, yet he dropped down dead from a heart attack. How could this be ? His BMI betrayed him.