Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fat Finding Reveals Why Diets Don't Work

This article may have its merits, but I question the conclusion that preventing formation of fat cells in children is really the way to prevent kids from becoming fat adults. I have known kids who were fat as children but not fat as adults, and I've known kids who were thin as children and fat as adults (I know, anecdotal, but still..).
From what I understand, our brains are 77 - 78% water, 10 - 12 % fat (lipids), 8% protein, 1% carbohydrates, 2% soluble organics (whatever those are), and 1% inorganic salts. Do these researchers think that they can limit fat cell formation in every part of a person's body except the brain? I don't think it's a good idea to say that people who are genetically inclined to being fat should have 10 or 20 % fewer fat cells. Do you want the portion of your brain that's composed of fat to be 10 or 20% smaller, just so you can be thin? I don't know the function of fat in the brain, but I'm sure it wouldn't be there if it wasn't necessary for brain function. I'm not willing to compromise my brain function just on the off chance that it might make me thin. My brain functions quite well just as it is (and so does my body with the number of fat cells it has).
Do they really want to mess with genetics to change how a person's body is going to be? Dumb question, of course they do, just because they can, and because they just "know" how horrible it is to be fat (for our health, of course).
The tightly regulated number of fat cells in adulthood may explain why it seems easy to gain back lost weight, Buchholz said.

If you already have more fat cells from adolescence than other people, "it's harder to become thin," Buchholz told LiveScience.

Did they ever stop to think that there's a reason the number of fat cells in our bodies is so tightly regulated? What happens if you reduce the number of fat cells? Is that going to throw other body functions out of kilter? How many other problems will this kind of thing cause, and will those problems be worse than the problems supposedly related to fat? I don't think I'm willing to risk it, and I know I wouldn't want to risk it for my children or grandchildren.


  1. I could swear I learned a long time ago that the number of fat cells a person has is determined at birth. It never changes. I think I recently read Glen Gaesser say the same thing -- that like muscle, we already have a set amount. You can build your muscles to their limit, but you can't create more muscles in your body.

    IIRC, fat cells were the same deal. Granted, I didn't read the article you linked to yet, but it just sent warning bells off because -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- you can't change the *number* of fat cells in your body. It's the number you're born with. You can't create or destroy them.

  2. That's what I thought too, that the number of fat cells you have is the number you were born with, and couldn't be changed. But that seems to be what they want to do, change the number of fat cells with which people are born (some people are born with more fat cells than others, evidently, and they think those people with more fat cells are the ones who become fat adults). I still think it's not a good idea to mess with what Mother Nature has done in creating us.

  3. This was a letter in a journal, not a peer-reviewed study. It claimed to have looked at CORRELATIONS of cell number/size among a group of people. It says nothing about causation. We all naturally come in a variety of shapes and sizes. And weight changes and fat build-up as we age is also surprisingly predetermined by genetics [some people are fat as kids, some get fat in their 20s-30s during childbearing years, others in middle age, etc.] The scary thing about the media stories about this is that some birdbrains will take it to mean that starving babies and children might "prevent" fat cells from forming. :(

  4. Minor point--the fat in the brain isn't in the form of fat cells (i.e. cells specialized for storing fat), it's a component of brain cells themselves. That's why it is a bad idea to limit children's fat intake before the age of 2 or so (giving them lf/skim milk, etc.)--it impairs the development of brain cells. But it should be theoretically possible to do some things that affect fat cells per se without affecting brain cells.

    And I think I've heard that fat cells can be added but not subtracted throughout life (except by mechanical means like liposuction). Don't quote me on that, though.

  5. To anonymous #2, theories abound. When credible evidence is available, then it's worthy of discussion. I worry about earthlings jumping lightyears ahead of any actual science. People after famines, for example, get fatter and have more health problems, which shows how even things that might seem theoretically possible, don't work in reality. Children need fats and sugars for much more than simply their brain cells and we have enough mothers trying to underfeed kids hoping to keep them thin. [shiver]

    Yes, most exercise physiologists recognize that our body types, including muscle development, is mostly genetic. As is aerobic fitness. Not everyone is meant to be an athlete, just as not everyone is designed to be fat or thin. There are a number of studies, for example, showing that obese people have worse health outcomes by doing more exercise. We pretty have the body types we were meant to have and can spend our lives obsessed with trying to change that, or we can live our lives. I vote for the latter. I'm with you Vesta, I think Mother Nature did a pretty amazing job in creating all of us.

  6. Do you want the portion of your brain that's composed of fat to be 10 or 20% smaller, just so you can be thin?

    Given the number of people (women, mostly, IIRC) who've answered questionnaires saying that they would rather be hit by a truck/lose a limb/etc. than gain 100 pounds, I think that the answer to your question is probably yes.

    I certainly don't want less brain matter (and don't want to be hit by a truck/lose a limb), but the sad truth is that there are probably a lot of people out there who would be willing to even lose brain mass if it meant achieving the almighty state of thinness.

    As for me, I like my big fat brain. It lets me store more useless knowledge (grasshoppers have white blood!) that I may one day use to defeat a thin-brained person on Jeopardy.

  7. Teppy - I knew when I asked that question that the answer from a lot of women would be yes. It's a sad commentary on society when looks are valued over intelligence (and compassion and everything else).
    I agree that having a big fat brain that allows me to store all kinds of knowledge is a good thing. You never know when that information will come in handy (like on Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a

  8. My parents very strictly limited my food when I was growing up, so if limiting children's food limits their fat cells, I should have benefitted from that. But I'm very fat so I don't think I did. (I'm also very smart, so I don't think it hurt my brain. Although maybe I would have been a super genius otherwise, I don't know.)

    I believe some medications cause you to grow more fat cells. And/or maybe some medical conditions.

  9. Actos and Avandia, the diabetes drugs work by turning osteoblasts (which would have become new bone cells) into fat cells which then procede to fill up with the triglycerides that your liver makes from the excess blood glucose.


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