Monday, 2 May 2011

Gotta add weight

New research adds weight to the theory that the body absolutely needs to push fat in to cells. Those patients who had liposuction in one place found that the fat reappeared somewhere else in the body.

This makes sense to me, if you consider that a body which does not have a perfectly balanced metabolism of its various proteins, chemicals and hormones will produce an excess of some. Fat cells are a good place to put the extra.

If the body didn't then it could go downhill very quickly. I have also read that if fat cells become bloated and then a sudden event causes some to burst, releasing the toxins within, this precipitates an acute medical emergency.

I am seriously in favour of shoving the horrible current public attitude that "obese people" (however others want to categorise them, usually by appearance!) are to blame for their own poor health.

While everyone has to be sensible about limiting our modern tendency towards processed foods, it is now becoming increasingly clear that there is something wrong within the body that produces obesity. It is not just our genes or our diet.

And if you are wondering why, after liposuction, the fat doesn't go back to the same place but to some other fat cells elsewhere, one expert in the New York Times piece had this suggestion: "Maybe liposuction violently destroys the fishnet structure under the skin where fat cells live." Wrecking your body further does not seem to be a sensible answer to obesity.


  1. Really interesting article. I can see how removal of fat by liposuction could potentially damage the fat cell structure in a particular region (you only have to watch a liposuction being performed to see how "delicate" it is - ouch!!). Having that storage being removed, it makes sense that the body needs to find another location in it's place as storage.
    However, one question which springs to mind is when it comes to dieting. Some people have been successful in dieting and keeping the weight off. In this case, the weight does not appear to distribute and appears to remain off. You hear about a person being born with a certain amount of fat cells and wether you are thin or obese depends on the quantity stored in these cells. Is the reason they keep the weight off that they keep their intake to a low level and therefore do not store as much overall, burning up the fats due to lower quantities, higher quality of food etc?
    Sorry for the rant, I'm just interested in your opinion on this.

  2. Great to read your comment Emily, thanks!
    Firstly, as far as I've read, it is not true that the number of fat cells is fixed. The number definitely can increase in obesity.

    To clarify what I said in the blogpost: some people, as they get past puberty, appear to have a normal build and a stable layer of fat cells. AND YET, they might start a new drug, or be at a point of stress or significant change in their life and notice a change in their body shape.

    Suddenly they realise they are getting fatter.This is particularly noticeable with contraceptive pills or anti-depressants. There then comes a debate among doctors about why the weight increases. Is it water retention in the cells, or an increase in fat cells?

    My contention is: whatever is largely inside the collection of cells (water or fat)other hormone products, proteins and toxins are taken in to those swollen cells too. Clearly if we adjust our metabolism by taking a new medication, this can result in obesity. If we are changing our hormonal and metabolic balance with a course of pills and find this clear result, then surely it is not illogical to suggest that a person experiencing an UNEXPLAINED weight gain MAY have a transient metabolic cause.

    Something in their environment may have caused an increase of a protein that is not needed by the body, so it stores it in the cells. Maybe a person is creating metabolically (note, not ingesting!) too much of one chemical and the body can't excrete it fast enough, so it stores it in the fat cells. Too much would be toxic (hence the problem when a person experiences a trauma that bursts fat cells and triggers an acute medical emergency).

    The metabolic pathways are immensely complex, resulting in many thousands of possible triggers and resulting events inside the cells, and this is added to the person's genes, what they eat, what drugs they take, what they have done that day, or what environmental exposure they have had. So I am naturally skeptical when research tries to say a cause of obesity is more of x, less of y, or this single gene, or one particular molecular interaction.

    So, to answer you question, I don't believe that a simple low intake of calories is the answer to keeping weight off. I had a friend who was very obese even though I did not see her snacking. She worked long hours in a physically active job and kept her dietary intake minimal. Suddenly one day she started losing weight and everyone complimented her on her evident "health". Sadly she died of widespread cancer within months. Her standalone case proves nothing, but it backs up my view that obese people should not be told that their weight is simply caused by their calorific intake or level of exercise.

    All the best - please feel free to comment or question again.