By David Crocker
Diet and Exercise
In the United States, just about half (49.1%) of adults made an effort to lose weight within the calendar year, according to data from 2013-2016.
There are three basic types of body fat, depending on where its located in the body:
- “Subcutaneous” fat is located just below the skin’s surface.
- “Visceral” fat also known as belly fat.
- “Retroperitoneal” fat is located within the abdominal cavity, which also includes visceral fat.
Although most folks think of body fat as “public enemy number one”, there are rarely discussions of the benefits of body fact. So just what good, does our fat do for us?
- Body fat helps protect internal organs by acting as a physical cushion.
- Fat is a great source of energy. In fact, fat is the body’s most concentrated form of energy, providing more than twice as much potential energy as carbohydrates or proteins. Carbohydrates must be stored with water, so our body weight would double if we stored the same amount of energy in glycogen, as we store as fat. With regard to protein, our bodies don’t maintain reserves for use as fuel.
- “Adipose” tissue (fat, commonly found throughout the body) is important for hormone regulation. In fact, some biologists have begun referring to fat as an “endocrine organ,” comparing it to glands like the thyroid, and pituitary, which also release hormones straight into the bloodstream. Hormones secreted by adipose tissue include “leptin” (“fullness” hormone that inhibits hunger), “adiponectin” (a protein hormone involved in regulating glucose, which plays a protective role in development of diabetes, and cardiovascular disease), “tumor necrosis factor” (a cell signaling protein that coordinates gene production and cellular activity), “angiotensinogen” (precursor to a hormone that regulates blood pressure) and “interleukin 6” (pro inflammatory and anti-inflammatory).
- Fat helps regulate body temperature. Think of it as insulation.
- Body fat plays an important role in immune function. It communicates the metabolic state of the body to the immune system through hormones called “adipokines”.
Now for some of the bad stuff body fat does.
- In the United States today, 63.1% of all adults are overweight or obese, and 34% of all children and adolescents fall into that same category.
- Too much body fat causes blood vessels to harden and clog (atherosclerosis), thereby contributing to cardiovascular disease.
- Other conditions facilitated by excess body fat include type 2 diabetes, body pain, sleep apnia and even carpel tunnel syndrome. Also, too much visceral fat (inside the body), is dangerous because it presses on internal organs.
The best way to rid the body of excess body fat is through proper diet and exercise, including weight training and aerobic training. Even a 7% drop in body fat can add many healthful benefits.
Here are a few more fat facts you might not know.
- One pound of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories. That’s why weight training is so crucial to burn fat, because it raises metabolism, so you metabolize or burn fat 24 hours a day. To burn a pound of fat just by walking, you’d have to walk for almost 9 hours.
- Fat is the most calorific nutrient we eat. Protein and carbohydrate have 4 calories per gram. Fat has 9 calories.
- When you gain fat, you don’t get more fat cells, but rather each fat cell increases in size. Fat cells can expand up to 10 times their normal size. Conversely, when you lose fat, you don’t lose fat cell, but rather each fat cell shrinks. By the way, the same is true for muscle cells.
- Thinking can actually make you fat. Research at Laval University in Canada found that although thinking hard and concentrating doesn’t require extra calories, it does stimulate the body to feel hunger.
Questions? Email David at firstname.lastname@example.org.