What causes fat?

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I received the same great question from Erica, Louis and Elaine: “What causes fat?”

Most people would say, “Eating more calories than you burn.”

That statement is true, with some qualifications; but, it’s more complicated than simply eating too much.

More recently, fat has been defined as an organ. It has many more functions in the body than previously thought. For example, fat releases hormones that control metabolism.

The six categories of fat include brown, white, subcutaneous, visceral and belly fat.

Brown

Brown fat has received a good amount of media attention the past few years, because of its desirable qualities. Lean people tend to have more brown fat and scientists believe it is metabolically more active than white fat. It burns more calories.  It is thought to behave more like muscle than white fat.

White

We tend to have more white fat than brown fat. An average 150-pound person has some 20 to 30 pounds of white fat and only 2 or 3 ounces of brown fat. White fat’s job is to store energy and produce hormones including adiponectin. This hormone makes the liver and muscles sensitive to the hormone insulin. This process makes us less susceptible to diabetes and heart disease.

Subcutaneous

This is the fat we see in the mirror and it is found directly beneath our skin. It is found on thighs, butt and bellies.

Visceral

This fat is wrapped around inner organs and is associated with numerous diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia. Though it is not visible on the surface of the skin, its presence is very visible in the form of a big belly or waist.

Visceral fat is thought to play a large role in insulin resistance, which drives risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Visceral fat is also thought to drive inflammation.

Experts say too much visceral fat equals health risks.

Belly

The only way to tell how much of your belly fat is subcutaneous versus visceral is to have a CT scan. The percentage of subcutaneous versus visceral belly fat isn’t as important as simply knowing a big belly or waist is a health risk. Women with a waist circumference measurement over 35 and men over 40 inches are at increased risk of poor health and disease.

What causes fat?

We do need some body fat for insulation and to burn as fuel for everyday activities. We are not looking to go down to 0% body fat. It is the overaccumulation of fat that is bad. Too much fat is caused by:

  • Having insulin resistance. Too much insulin (the fat-storing hormone) drives fat storage.
  • Being inactive. It doesn’t take much activity to help keep fat at bay.
  • Low muscle mass. You don’t have to be hulking human specimen, but having muscle mass does help you burn more fat and keep you living the great life you deserve.
  • Eating too much. While we don’t count calories on the Fat-Burning Machine program, that doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited amounts of food.

The simple and easy-to-implement Fat-Burning Machine principles are designed to address all four of the causes of fat. These are changes you can make, starting today.

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Gale Bernhardt