How Fat Harms the Body
Body fat does more than just weigh us down. Because fat cells release chemicals that increase insulin resistance and induce chronic inflammation, they can put us at a higher risk of health problems like diabetes and heart disease. This helps to explain why we grow more susceptible to illness as obesity becomes more severe.
Introducing the Fat Cell
Body fat, or adipose tissue, is made up of fat cells that work together to store energy in our body. When we eat more calories than we can use through activity, our bodies convert them to fat and they are then stored by the body until used. As we continue to take in more energy (calories) without using it up, our fat cells grow larger. Over time, this starts causing health problems.
Think of each individual fat cell as a balloon. When partially inflated, there is no stress on the balloon and no risk of popping. But when filled to capacity, the balloon becomes more stressed and volatile and may even begin to leak.
When your fat cells are filled to capacity, they can begin to secrete chemicals that affect inflammation, insulin usage and other issues in the body, contributing to things like:
- Increased hunger
- Recruitment of more fat cells
- Metabolic syndrome
- Poor cholesterol levels
- Elevated liver fat
- Insulin resistance (and eventually diabetes)
Small fat cells regulate themselves and their functions well, but larger fat cells get out of control and begin a process that causes serious problems and can become difficult to control. As fat cells grow they prompt us to become hungrier, causing more fat to develop.
Shrinking the Balloons
Weight loss can reduce your risk of many chronic diseases because it helps your body get rid of fat. By reducing calorie consumption and eating a high-protein diet, your body will begin using fat for fuel. The balloons begin to shrink to a more appropriate size, and fat cells get the message that they no longer need to grow or multiply. The inflammatory chemicals go away, the problems subside and function returns to normal.
We often think of fat as little more than extra cushioning, but it affects much more than just your appearance and mobility. If you’re obese, reducing body fat is an important aspect of improving your health and preventing chronic disease.