Learn the skinny on fat – bad and beneficial

Published 3:15 pm Friday, May 13, 2011

As a personal trainer and nutritionist, one of my most important jobs is to educate my clients.

The more they know about how their bodies work, the easier it is to reach their goals.

Most people come to me to help them lose body fat. They, like many people, consider body fat to be public enemy No. 1, but what I teach them is that fat actually does some really great things for us all.

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Adipose tissue (fat), is an anatomical term for loose connective tissue that is composed of adipocytes or fat cells. There are three types of fat, depending on its location in the body.

1) Subcutaneous fat is fat located just below the skin’s surface.

2) Visceral fat is fat buried deep in the body.

3) Retroperitoneal fat is fat located inside the abdominal cavity, which also contains visceral fat.

So just what good does body fat do for us? Well, for starters, fat helps protect our internal organs by creating a type of cushion. Fat is also a great fuel and energy source when our bodies need it.

Fat cells help make hormones do their jobs and control chemicals that regulate the immune system, metabolism and brain function. In fact, some biologists have begun calling fat an endocrine organ, comparing it to glands like the thyroid and pituitary, which also release hormones straight into the bloodstream.

Fat cells also transmit signals to the brain. These cells have receptors that can be turned on and off. These receptors tell cells to store or release more fat, or to secrete chemicals that influence appetite and the body’s use of insulin.

Now that we know some of the good stuff fat does for us, let’s explore some of the negatives.

In the U.S. today, 63.1 percent of all adults are overweight or obese, and 34 percent of all children and adolescents fall into that same category. A lean adult has about 40 million fat cells, but an obese one has at least two to three times that much. Too much body fat causes blood vessels to harden and clog, thereby causing cardiovascular disease.

Other conditions facilitated by too much body fat include Type 2 Diabetes, body pain, sleep apnea and even carpal tunnel syndrome.

Also, too much visceral fat (inside the body), is dangerous, because it actually presses on internal organs.

The best way to get rid of body fat is through diet and exercise. Even a 7 percent drop can add many healthful benefits.

Exercise or nutrition question? Email me at dwcrocker77@gmail.com or visit fitness4yourlife.org.

David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist for 24 years. He has served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, taught four semesters at USC-Union. Crocker was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.