Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

3 things you didn’t know about your body fat


Fat gets a bad rap. From muffin tops to beer bellies, fat is typically something we try to diet and exercise away. But did you know that fat (in healthy amounts!) also plays a vital role in keeping our bodies running smoothly? Anna Almendrala of shares some of fat's amazing abilities, as well as tips on how to treat it right.


Fat has different colors.

“When you think of fat, you most likely think of the white stuff on your tummy, hips and thighs that stores energy until you need it,” writes Almendrala. But guess what? Your body also has a good type of fat and its color is brown.

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  • Brown fat is more common in children because it helps them keep their body temperatures stable, but it has recently been discovered in adults, too. Brown fat burns calories to keep you warm, while white fat stores excess calories around your waist, leading to health problems like obesity, heart problems, etc.

    In August 2013, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine discovered a "toggle switch" that controls whether fat cells become the brown, energy-burning type or the white, energy-storing type. The discovery could lead to new ways to control obesity and related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.


    Fat cells need sleep, too.

    You know that groggy feeling you get after a poor night’s sleep? Your fat cells respond the same way if they don’t get their beauty rest! According to Almendrala, “if you skimp on sleep, you might be hurting your body fat's ability to respond to insulin, which could lead to weight gain or diabetes down the road.”

    In a 2012 study conducted by the University of Chicago Medicine, researchers found that sleepy fat cells reduced their ability to respond to insulin — a hormone that regulates energy — by nearly 30 percent. After four consecutive nights of only 4.5 hours of sleep, the seven young, healthy people recruited for the study produced fat cells that had an insulin response decrease comparable to the difference between obese vs. lean people, or people with diabetes vs. people without diabetes.


    Doctors are more concerned about the fat you can't see.

    “Love handles, flabby forearms and double-chins; while these visible (and grab-able) signs of excess fat can be troubling, it's the visceral fat, or fat you can't see, that should be of more concern,” writes Almendrala. 

    Subcutaneous fat — which sits under the skin, predominantly in your thighs, butt and arms — works as a padding to protect your bones and keep you warm. But visceral fat, which is located deep under the muscles in the abdomen, wraps around the inner organs and pumps out chemicals that increase your risk for a number of health hazards.

    An April 2013 stud conducted by University of Groningen Medical Center found that people who carry more fat around their bellies may be at higher risk of kidney disease, while a July study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found people with excessive belly fat have a greater risk of heart disease and cancer. And it doesn’t stop there! According to a news release from the Radiological Society of North America, researchers found that visceral fat is linked to bone loss and decreased bone strength in men.


    Read 5 more things you didn’t know about body fat at

    Kelly O'Shea
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