Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Fat of the Land

Angier weighs in on fat's defense.

This is an excellent example of a mechanism that got me interested in physiology in the first place. Fat should not be reviled, it is the amazing energy warehouse of the body, able to store more reserves that would otherwise tear our vital organs apart in a metabolic storm of fury.

Indeed, evolutionary biologists have proposed that our relative plumpness compared with our closest nonhuman kin, the chimpanzee, may help explain our relative braininess. Even a lean male athlete with a body fat content of 8 percent to 10 percent of total body mass (half the fat found on the average nonobese, non-Olympic American man) is still a few percentage points more marbled than a wild male chimpanzee, and scientists have suggested that our distinctive adipose stores help ensure that our big brains will be fed even when our cupboards go bare.

Too true. The brain is essentially a Ziploc bag full of fat and water, the additional white fatty matter affords male brains their excellent coordination. Fatheadedness is perhaps not such a terrible insult.

Fat also seems to know when it is getting out of hand, and it may resist new personal growth. Dr. Spiegelman and others have shown that with the onset of obesity — defined as 25 or more pounds above one’s ideal weight — the fat tissue starts releasing potent inflammatory hormones. That response is complex and harmful in the long run. But in the short term, said Dr. Spiegelman, “inflammation clearly has an anti-obesity effect, and it may be the body’s attempt to restrain further accumulation of adipose tissue.” The fat sizes up the risks and benefits, and it takes its fat chance.

Huh! If that's the case, it makes you wonder what effect the prolific amount of anti-inflammatory products we have on the market puts upon those bodies attempting to reign in their fattening bodies. Could aspirin be helping you put on the pounds?

1 comment:

Bobbi said...

A friend of mine once gained a fair amount of weight while studying for her comprehensive exams. Her response was, "I'm myelinating my brain!"