In Search of a Miracle – How Does Growing Fat Happen?
How Does This “Growing Fat” Thing Happen?
We need body fat but, as as adult in 2022, we don’t necessarily need it to grow.
The human body is purposely designed to gain fat to avoid starving. Those poor humans living in caves way back when were very susceptible to hunger and starving. Any opportunity to store calories for a raining day was a good thing.
Body fat was stored calories, covering their needs when there wasn’t enough to eat (often) and helping them cope with illness. Illness sucks up a lot of energy, often when eating is also difficult. Maybe you have experienced that yourself.
So here is how that works.
We each arrive on this earth with a genetically defined number of fat cells, many billions of them, but everybody’s number can be different. As we grow those cells start filling with fat and get bigger, quite a lot actually since we each started out as a tiny baby and ended up as a big adult.
At some point those cells can reach their max accumulation, Max accumulation is bad.
Consider this fat cell growth in relation to the gas tank with a limited size in your hybrid car. The car alternates between using gas and electricity for fuel when the car is running. The car doesn’t run all the time but your body does.
An ongoing energy supply is required in a system that is always running. Thus the human body alternates between glucose and fat for energy 24 hours a day.
The glucose is stored in very small supply in muscles and the liver, on ready to keep your hungry brain operating full time and quickly supply energy in a crisis. Life offers lots of crisis opportunities.
So we eat. The fat and glucose in the food you eat is offered first choice to all of your body cells. Any fat not taken up lands in fat cells. Any glucose not taken up by the muscles and liver will be converted into fat and delivered to those same fat cells.
Of course we aren’t eating every hour of every day but our bodies need energy every hour of every day. So the fat cells are always delivering fat into the blood for just in case and returning unneeded fat back to fat storage.
Thus the fat cells are receiving fat from the diet (excess fat and glucose) along with the returning fat in an ongoing cycle.
This brings us to instructions.
In our hybrid car we manually deliver/stop delivering gas to our car’s motor with the accelerator and brakes. The car’s system recharges the battery when the car is running. Instructions from the car’s computer make all that work.
Our bodies perform all those processes with signals from the hormone insulin. The program for those instructions is in our brain.
In simple, if not necessarily perfect terms, when insulin is high then energy should be storing somewhere. If the insulin level is low, energy is being used. Gaining fat as an adult suggests too much insulin. Losing fat is accomplished by low insulin levels.
Suppose you start the gas pumping into your car, forget about it and the nozzle switch fails. The tank maxes out and gas starts pumping out onto the ground, a flood considered an emergency. You can have the same problem with your fat cells.
When there is no more room for fat storage, fat simply starts overflowing into the blood. Fat is being stored where it doesn’t belong, like in the liver. The liver stops storing glucose and starts dumping glucose into the blood at the wrong time. Blood triglycerides (fat) and blood sugar (glucose) go very wrong. Confusion reigns.
Despite its best effort insulin eventually can’t to do its job. But a lot of insulin is expended in the effort.
All those best efforts by insulin mean, at least initially, that the pancreas makes a lot more insulin in compensation. Then eventually the production effort wears down Insulin become continuously too low or, God forbid. fails completely. Too little or too much, both bad.
The extra insulin and overflowing fat have contributed to a lot of damage in all parts of the body. We arrive at the chronic diseases. Diabetes, cardidovascular disease, high triglycerides, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, etc.
All that starts with growing fat cells.
What are the clues that you have a problem?
- Are you already obese? You know it you look in the mirror. Or are you headed that way because you are regularly gaining fat?
- Are you just thick around the middle above the waist? This might suggest that you have a lower number of ordinary fat cells and fat is storing in the liver where it does not belong.
- Are your triglycerides (fat) too high? They are measured in the “lipid profile” along with your cholesterol on a blood test. Most people never look at this. I suggest you look.
- Do you already have one or more of the typical chronic diseases?
If any of the four above are true of you, then think about modifying your diet to avoid growth of /lose some of that excess body fat.
Why do we get obese?
Those people living in caves way back when, despite their genetic design to gain fat, usually didn’t gain much.. We, the 2022 non-cave people, are now alnost 50% obese. Why would that be?
Because, unlike the cavemen, modern man has available and loves a combination of fat and glucose (sugar) from starchy plants, a combination rarely found in nature. That’s a long list of commercial “food” made from flour, sugar, and fat, not to speak of grandma’s macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, or homemade ice cream.
It’s all that stuff that causes you to declare, “Boy, that is really good” or just keep eating without thought. This uncomfortably reminds me of when I could eat a whole box of Cheez-its without hesitation, having absolutely nothing to do with being hungry.
Those combinations of fat and glucose go ding in your brain’s reward (pleasure) center. You’d like that to happen again. You eat more, insulin is triggered big time, and storage continues.
The more those combinations make up your diet, the greater the odds you will max out your fat cells.
None the less, body fat is important, covering our needs when starvation or illness looms. It isn’t necessary or desirable to be skinny. Illness sucks up a lot of energy, often at a time when eating is also difficult. The older we get, the more likely illness will occur.
In other words, too little or too much body fat, both bad.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Her books are available on Amazon, at Bob’s Food City in Mount Ida, and at the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 501-605-3902. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.