When it’s fat or real estate, it’s all about location, location, location! Where your fat is located on your body, affects your overall health, your brain structure and function, and even your ability to be mindful… or not.
In this show you learn plenty of facts and fiction about fat cells.
Fat has more functions than we thought.
- Fat stores excess calories so you can mobilize the fat stores for energy when you need them.
- Fat releases hormones that control metabolism (metabolism refers to how you burn calories as energy, or store calories as fat).
- Fat protects organs.
- Fat acts like Jekyll and Hyde depending on where it lives, what type of fat it is and how many of them are there.
- Hormone altering chemicals love fat. Pollutants that mascaraed as hormones, can hide inside fats cells making them act physiologically nasty. Dr. Bruce Blumberg has labeled these endocrine disruptors that especially make for unhealthy fat cells, obesogens.
Fat cares about location.
Not all fat is created equal. Where your fat “lives” modifies it’s function.
- Visceral fat lives inside your gut surrounding your organs.
- Subcutaneous fat lies under your skin.
Mounting evidence shows that fat lying deep within the abdomen is more perilous than the fat you can pinch with your fingers on your underarm, inner thigh and even on your belly just under your skin.
Fat that lives right underneath your skin, that feels relatively soft and that you can pinch between your fingers, is called subcutaneous fat.
In a healthy person, you should have a bit of fat under your skin that makes up a bout 90% of your fat stores.
The remaining 10% — called visceral or intra-abdominal fat —lies outside of your easy reach, beneath your firm abdominal wall. This fat fills the spaces surrounding abdominal organs like your liver, intestines, spleen and others. Visceral fact can also be found inside your omentum. This is an apron-like flap of tissue that lies under the belly muscles and blankets the intestines. The omentum gets harder and thicker as it fills with fat.
As women approach middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight increases often more than this happens in males. Their belly enlarges. Fat storage starts to thicken the torso, fill up under the armpits, and thicken the waist, especially in the back.
Even if you don’t actually gain weight, your waistline can grow by inches as visceral fat pushes out against the abdominal wall.
Fat is biologically active. It releases hormones that affect our health.
Subcutaneous fat releases healthy hormones.
- Subcutaneous fat releases the hormone leptin. When leptin is released in optimal amounts, it acts on the brain to suppress appetite (to help you not over eat) and even helps burn stored fat throughout the body so you don’t get fat.
- Subcutaneous fat also releases adiponectin. Adiponectin protects the body against diabetes and heart disease by regulating how the body processes fats and sugars. Adiponectin also is a powerful anti-inflammatory molecule, especially protecting the linings of blood vessels.
- Adiponectin is made a bit by visceral fat, too, as long as there isn’t too much of it. But adiponectin production falls severely as visceral fat volume increases.
- As people become fatter, they make less adiponectin. This increases their risk of diabetes, heart disease, dementia and the list keeps growing.
Visceral fat cells, in comparison, secrete unhealthy molecules and hormones.
- Visceral produces proteins called cytokines. These can trigger and maintain low-levels of unhealthy inflammation. Excessive inflammation is an independent risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementias and other serious chronic conditions.
- Visceral fat also produces a precursor to angiotensin, a protein that causes blood vessels to constrict, blood pressure to rise, and increases the risk of stroke.
- Visceral fat sets the scene for insulin resistance, another risk factor for many diseases as well as symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, out of control hunger and brain fog.
How to tell if you have too much bad visceral fat?
- If you have a pot belly you most like have excess visceral fat.
- If you gut protrudes past your breasts.
- If a woman’s waist is over 35 inches.
- If a man’s waist is over 40 inches.
Your belly/your brain.
One study followed 6,500 members of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, a large HMO (health maintenance organization), for an average of 36 years, from the time they were in their 40s until they were in their 70s. They tracked who got dementia, and compared this to their belly fat.
Those with the biggest bellies had the higher risk of dementia compared to people with smaller bellies. The link was true even for people with excess belly fat but overall of normal weight.
How does belly fat cause brain damage?
- Leptin: Excess belly fat can cause leptin malfunction. This can cause issues with cognition, memory and hunger control.
- RBP4: Researchers at Harvard have discovered that, compared with subcutaneous fat, visceral fat secretes larger amounts of retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4). Excesses of this molecule increase insulin resistance. As the volume of visceral fat increases, so do levels of RBP4.
- This connection is so predictable, researchers are developing a blood test for RBP4 as a way for physicians to accurately measure an individual’s amount of visceral fat.
Belly fat can be confusing. It can be both visceral and subcutaneous. It’s not easy to know exactly how much of your gut fat is killing your brain and your future. At the moment, the only way to determine which of your belly fat is subcutaneous or visceral, is by CT scan. This is expensive. And creates huge radiation exposure .So the test of RBP4 mentioned above, is promising, but not yet available
Did you know there are 3 types of fat cells: white, brown and brite (beige).
- White fat. This is stored energy. When you cut calories, you tend to loose white fat cells. When you add more exercise expenditure to smaller portions, you tend to loose more white fat cells. Most of visceral fat is white fat cells.
- Brown fat. Brown fat is now thought to be more like muscle than like white fat. When activated, brown fat burns white fat. Brown adipose tissue contributes to your body’s core temperature maintenance through a process called non-shivering thermogenesis. Lean people have more brown fat and more non-shivering thermogenesis. Children have more brown fat than adults and it helps keep them warm. Cold weather promotes brown fat synthesis. Studies show that in Boston in the wintertime, brown fat is more active, and this stimulates metabolism and burning of calories.
- Brite (beige fat) is brow fat marbled within white fat. Brite fat regulates energy expenditure and fights against obesity.
White fat can turn beige. Beige fat can revert back to white fat. Conversion factors depend upon how you eat, move and the balance of all your hormone family members. For example, underactive thyroid or testosterone can be tamping down your metabolism and play a role into your types of fat cells.
- Obesity = occurs when you have more white fat than the other types of fat, from consuming more energy than you use, or having unhealthy hormones and nutrient status (hormone depend on nutrients to keep you health).
- You can fight obesity = by eating less, moving more, and eating more fishmeals or taking essential fatty acid fish supplements.
- Why? Fish oil helps you make more brown and brite fat, which ups your ability to burn calories.
The “Browning of White Fat” (white fat turning beige).
Exercise promotes the release of an exercise hormone called Irisin. In 2012, Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, a cell biologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, dubbed this exercise hormone as “Irisin,” after Iris, the Greek messenger goddess. Spiegelman said that exercise “signals” your body to maintain healthier weight.
You make the choice to exercise. As you exercise, your activated muscles produce and release irisin. Irisin promotes brown fat cell production within white fat cells. This is browning of white fat, by exercise through the middleman of irisin.
More browned white fat means your metabolism increase. You burn more calories. It’s less difficult to maintain a healthier weight.
Irisin has multiple benefits.
- Promotes white fat browning.
- Triggers neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons), especially within your brain.
- Increases the expression of BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factor).
- Activates genes involved in learning and memory.
- Lengthens telomeres (tips of DNA). The longer your telomeres, the more you fight off disease, aging and premature death.
Show Resources & Links
Bigger Belly Fat, Smaller Brain Size & the Shocking Link of Mindfulness with 15 Sophisticated Action Steps