When a person becomes overweight, it’s because their calorie intake has exceeded their energy output for a certain period of time: the surplus energy has therefore been stored in specialised cells called adipocytes. It is these cells which primarily make up adipose tissue, the soft tissue responsible for unsightly bulges. Energy reserves are stored in the form of lipids: they penetrate the adipocytes which inflate like balloons as the fats accumulate.
If the calorie/energy imbalance persists, the adipose tissue continues to expand, forcing the body to recruit yet more fat cells and to reconfigure blood flow pathways in order to feed them properly. But if the adipocytes grow too large, they end up becoming oxygen-deficient and they suffocate: the blood vessels are no longer able to reach them and the oxygen diffusion distance may be exceeded (2-3).
This lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, creates chaos in adipose tissue.
Fat is deposited at several main sites in the body: subcutaneous tissue, visceral tissue, around the hips and around organs such as the heart and kidneys. Each of these types of fat deposit has a specific hormonal profile, ie, they do not all secrete the same messengers and do not, therefore, lead to the same consequences if the deposits get bigger or become problematic. For example, fat deposited in subcutaneous tissue does not appear to be linked to obesity, whereas that deposited in visceral tissue seems to be particularly vulnerable to fibrosis (10).
How do you know if you should be worried about your abdominal fatty tissue? To be certain, you’d need to measure your inflammation levels and identify whether or not fibrosis has taken place. A simpler guide is whether or not you feel too fat in the abdominal area, although this is not necessarily indicative, since slim people can be affected while obese individuals remain ‘metabolically healthy’ (11). How you feel, what your body’s telling you, whether you’re suffering from inflammation problems or fatigue and if you’re finding it difficult to lose weight (even if you’re not significantly overweight) are all vital clues.
It therefore requires urgent action in order to prevent the threat of type 2 diabetes or atherosclerosis. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that fibrosis will develop and cause overall degeneration of tissue. Following are five steps to consider right now if you want to reduce your fatty tissue and inflammation levels:
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