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Understanding Obesity
and Function of Fat Cells

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 14 in the June 2, 2010 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

For thousands of years, the basic premise of human survival depended on the ability to conserve body mass. Obesity was rare, and did not really aid survival. Obese people tend to suffer more heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. Canadians are in a minority situation on this planet. We consider ourselves "fortunate" to have access to a constant, varied and overabundant supply of items for ingestion. This is really a deviation from the "normal" human condition.

In our environment, we are free to "enjoy" food, a function of our higher brain center. This emotion often overwhelms the more primitive signals which indicate that we have consumed enough. Our children are afflicted with the effects of obesity in record numbers.

To understand obesity, you need to understand the functioning of fat cells. A new understanding into how these cells interact is emerging, it seems that we truly are what we eat. You don't get diabetes by eating too much sugar, and eating fatty foods is not the cause of obesity.

All foods are broken down into their basic elements and are used to rebuild and fuel our bodies. Fat cells are the newest organ, because they collectively communicate, interact and perform a unique function. It is now accepted that fat cells can multiply if extra fat storage is required. When this ability is activated in childhood by overeating, future adverse health can result.

The foods we eat are broken down into components and the fat is stored in fat cells. It is then metabolized and released into the blood stream as fatty acids. Fat cells also secrete numerous messengers. Leptin is produced to signal the brain that the cell is full. The brain then turns off food cravings. Chronic overeating can desensitize this process. Fat cells also produce Resistin, which can contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Other substances such as Adiponectin can result in beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. Fat cells also make other unique substances such as Tumor Necrosis Factor and Angiothensinogen. All of these seem to interact to maintain our body weight. It is a remarkably efficient system. This system has the ability to regulate and maintain our weight to within a few ounces. Altering the sensitivity of this system by as little as two percent is enough to result in obesity within five years.

Uncovering the physiology of this system will no doubt result in new weight reduction agents. Exercise and sensible eating are still the only means to achieve healthy weight loss. Reduction must come slowly for benefits to be obtained. The other message is that there is no such thing as a diet. Permanent changes to what, when and how you eat must be made in order to lose weight.

Burning fat instead of sugar is the body's last resort for survival. It produces ketone type substances, which are thought to be harmful, and should be done with appropriate monitoring and advice. The latest research suggests that getting a pedometer and making sure that you take 9,000 steps each and every day will result in a healthy shift towards your ideal weight.

The Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart takes place June 6, 2010. I will be taking my feet out of my mouth and putting them on a bike for a 50 K romp to raise research funds. Please sponsor this worthy cause at Ride for Heart Toronto 2010. www.heartandstroke.ca - "Dr. Pete Kujtan." I will personally match your support. Make a difference today!

Related resources:

Childhood obesity from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Adipocyte from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Adipocytes, also known as lipocytes and fat cells, are the cells that ... specialized in storing energy as fat."

Role of addiction cannot be ignored in obesity epidemic by Laura Thompson, McMaster University Daily News.

Chronic overeating plays fundamental role in obesity epidemic from The Medical News, source: McMaster University.

Lipid from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Although the term lipid is sometimes used as a synonym for fats, fats are a subgroup of lipids called triglycerides. Lipids also encompass molecules such as fatty acids and their derivatives ..."

Fatty acid from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Diabetes Origin: Free Fatty Acids? From Medicinenet.com. WebMD Feature. Reviewed by Charlotte Grayson.

How Fat Cells Work from HowStuffWorks.

Top 12 Fat-Fighting Foods by Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, CNC, Doctor of Natural Medicine, Doctor of Acupuncture, holistic nutritionist, and award-winning author. "You can increase your body's fat-burning power by eating more foods that help your liver ... to burn fat better, resulting in a leaner body. 12 Fat-Fighting Foods picked by Michelle Schoffro Cook: Oatmeal, Leafy Greens, Olives & Olive Oil, Beans & Legumes, Garlic & Onions, Tomatoes, Nuts, Cayenne, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Flax Seeds & Flax Seed Oil.

How to lose weight the healthy way. Reviewed by John Pillinger, GP.

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