Fat can slow us down and change the ways our bodies look, but it can also affect us on a chemical level. While we often think of fat as useless cushioning, it also influences the body’s function. As we develop more fat, many health problems can occur.
Medical obesity specialist Dr. Robert Ziltzer says, “Excess body fat sets off a whole cascade of medical conditions like inflammation of the arteries and throughout the body.”
These detrimental effects of excess fat explain why weight loss can improve your health and protect you from serious conditions.
How Does Excess Fat Affect the Body?
Fat helps us save extra energy. When we take in more calories than we use, our bodies convert this energy and store it in fat cells. But as our fat cells continue to grow and multiply, they begin polluting the body and cause issues.
Medicine obesity specialist Dr. Craig Primack says that “…as fat cells get stretched out, they send signals to the rest of the body that causes an inflammatory reaction.”
Think of each fat cell as a balloon. When there isn’t much air in the balloon, it isn’t stressed or likely to pop. When there’s too much air or water, the balloon stretches and may start to leak. Like the balloon, fat cells become strained as they grow larger. They can secret chemicals that cause inflammation and a variety of health problems.
Increased Estrogen Levels
Inflammation contributes to hypertension and other obesity-related diseases. But fat cells can also lead to increased estrogen production in the body and, according to Dr. Primack, is why obesity is linked to estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer and uterine cancer.
“Having excess fat is almost like taking a hormone pill,” Dr. Primack says.
Fat’s influence on our hormones can even cause hunger. Our fat store’s leptin, a hormone that tells our brain we’re full. When we lose weight, our bodies produce less leptin. This makes us hungrier as our bodies attempt to regain the energy lost by burning fat.
“When we use medications as part of a weight loss program, we’re trying to suppress the drive from those hormones that increase hunger,” Dr. Primack says.
Burning Fat for Better Health
Eating a low-calorie, high-protein diet will help your body begin burning fat for fuel. As a result, the fat cells reduce in size and return to normal function. Levels of inflammatory chemicals reduce, hunger is less intense, and the risk of developing obesity-related illnesses decreases. This is one reason why losing weight can have such a positive influence on your health and life.
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