There are 200 different kind of cells in our body but none are so hated and feared as are our fat cells. We pinch them to measure their inches. We talk about burning them and slashing them and sucking them away. In extreme cases some people admit they’d rather die than carry 100 extra pounds of body fat – and they say it as though they mean it!
What really are these fat cells we profess to hate so much? Why do they plague us? Why can’t we get rid of, if not all of them, at least enough to make us look good in our bathing suits?
First, you should know that only vertebrates have adipocytes – fat cells. We’re the chosen! Yeah, I know, fat’s a gift you never asked for! But consider the good things fat does for you.
FAT HELPS FIGHT INFECTIONS!
Yup, that fat we call “ugly” works hard for us even while we wish it would go away permanently! Fat is stored in cells that play a leading role in how our body fights infection.
Battling an infection uses up a lot of energy and this is supplied by fat cells. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, fat cells are your body’s power station! These fat cells surround the main immune centers of the body called the lymph nodes. These are located in your neck, armpits and groin. And get this, fat cells can also sense a bacterial or viral attack and join in the fight by producing proteins that cause inflammation to kill off the infection. You need some fat to stay well!
FAT PROTECTS YOUR ORGANS
There is no escaping the battle cry, “Lose the fat! It’s unhealthy and it’s going to kill you!” Maybe so, and maybe not. Keith Frayn, professor of human metabolism at Oxford University, explains that as many as 20% of the overweight population have no signs of metabolic problems. All the important health indicators – blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, etc. are well within the healthy, lower levels.
This doesn’t seem to jive with what we hear about health and fat, so why isn’t obesity always a huge health risk? The answer appears to be in the fat cells and how much storage capacity they have. Studies suggest that some people have more fat cells naturally than others. These cells have more storage capacity and that’s why they are healthy. On the other hand, chronic or metabolic illnesses (such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes) occur when the amount of fat in the body overwhelms our body’s fat storage facilities.
FAT MIGHT HELP YOU LIVE LONGER!
You know how you never had to worry about your weight when you were younger and then around 40 everything changed? As far as you knew your eating and physical activity stayed the same but every time you stepped on the scale it creeped up a little higher. That can’t be good, right!?
Some healthcare professionals disagree with “thinner is always better.” It might be that being slightly overweight at this stage in life can give you a reserve for older age that can keep you alive for longer. More weight can increase bone density, due to the extra load you are carrying and that helps to prevent brittle bones, particularly in older women.
And get this! Fat can act as a reserve of vitamins and minerals, helping to counter malnutrition in later years. In addition, it acts as a layer of insulation for the major organs.
You might be interested to know that a Japanese study of over 600 – yes 600!!!!! – centenarians found that many of those who made it to 100 were quite chubby in their 50s.
MAKE NO MISTAKE, YOU CAN BE FAT AND FIT! THEY’RE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE
Fat isn’t the same as unfit. It’s not fat we need to shed, it’s fit we need to embrace!
Let’s stop being so critical of fat. Some fat looks good on our faces and other places! Fat is fantastic, fabulous and even flirty!