Monday, May 05, 2008

Fat karma


This study, reported in the New York times, confirms what some of us have known for years: Fat cells, like other matter, cannot be destroyed. Each adult has a certain number of fat cells, and that number remains constant throughout your life. When it comes to anything to do with metabolism, the body seems to be very efficient at seeking out and maintaining a state of homeostasis.

E.A. Sims' famous Vermont Prison Studies found that prisoners who were fed 75 percent more than normal gained relatively little weight, and quickly returned to their normal weights when their normal eating resumed, we've understood this mechanism. Notice that the word their is highlighted, because, as we know, there is no one weight that's "normal" for everyone.

So it's not surprising to find that the number of fat cells in an adult human remains more or less constant. But you can bet your sweet tooth that corporations--I mean obesity researchers--are going to keep scrambling to find ways to change that magic number.

So far, every effort we've made to futz with metabolism has either been unsuccessful or backfired and created more harm than good. Maybe we'd do well to take a more Buddhist approach: Your fat karma is unalterable, at least in this lifetime.

9 comments:

Rachel said...

I have no doubt science will eventually find a way to supercede genetics. I just worry about the folly in fiddling with a mechanism that has evolved over centuries with one specific purpose in mind: survival.

Harriet said...

Well put, Rachel. I concur.

April D said...

To me the most frightening phrase was "She added: “The million-dollar question now is, What regulates this process? And where can we intervene?”"

Um...hello...WHY do we need to intervene!?!?!? Because we don't "Like" icky fat cells? If the human body is naturally making them, replacing them, WHY mess with it!... *sigh*

vesta44 said...

I read an article about this last night.
I agree, if it ain't broke, don't "fix" it, it'll just be made worse in 9 out of 10 cases (WLS being a MAJOR case in point).

AnnieMcPhee said...

I learned that about fat cells back in junior high or so, and a few years back saw a graphic representation on National Geographic Channel about how it works. Each fat cell is sort of just a globule that grabs on to fat globules and enlarges, or shrinks when someone loses weight. You can see it if you see the shows on WLS when they're taking off 30 lbs of loose skin - it's always 10 inches deep in shrunken fat cells (but they couldn't just take it off then - too messy; best shrink and kill off the skin so it doesn't even really heal right, then cut it off. No, it's not dangerous THEN.) The whole weight loss industry is screwed.

ricki said...

I suspect it will be about 3 months before some company claims to have a "breakthrough" that will "stop" fat cells from renewing themselves.

And it will be about another 6 months before they find that the process is terribly, terribly toxic.

Katy said...

Here's my question: I can think of only one way to get rid of fat cells--lipo. So why don't they do a study--do people who have lipo, which leads to loss of fat cells, become permanently thinner? Healthier? If the answer is yes, then they can go on their merry fat-bashing way; if it's no, they can SHUT THE HELL UP!

littlem said...

Not only that, katy, but I've read that if people who get lipo are also dieting when they get the lipo, and then return to their regular eating habits, they will gain the fat back -- just not in the same place.

So if one is a pear shape who's thinking about lipo (just as an example), it might behoove one to think about whether or not one wants to be an apple.

So much the "careful what you wish for".

AnnieMcPhee said...

That makes some sense, littlem, since the size of the individual fat cells is what makes someone fat. A fat person's fat cells are holding more globulous goo than the thin person's fat cells. If someone is prone to fat and gets lipo, such as that 11 year old girl whose mom got her high-volume lipo and a tummy tuck - before the WLS, the remaining cells - in other places - would be just as likely to retain more fatgoo later, if that's their setpoint. From the pictures that's kind of what looked like happened to that little girl - within a year she'd regained the weight, but it looked to me to be distributed differently.