Fat, we all have it – some have a little, some have a lot. We know we want to lose it, but many don’t know that much about it. So here are four fat facts to inform and amaze you – and yes, help you get rid of it.
WE NEED SOME FAT TO BE HEALTHY
The average woman carries about 20 to 25 kg of fat. This provides back-up energy when blood sugar runs out. It insulates the skin from cold and heat and helps transport nutrients across cell membranes. Fat also provides the building blocks for hormones.
FAT IS PART OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM…
… but even scientists didn’t know that until recently. It seems the subcutaneous fat that lies just under the skin’s surface actively protects us against invaders. Within hours of exposing an area of skin to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in a lab, fat cells around the site were producing anti-microbial chemicals to kill the bug.
The moral of this story: Low body fat is healthy – but very low body fat is not better. “A normal body fat percentage for women is 21 to 33 per cent, depending on age,” says Dr Jarrod Meerkin from Sydney’s MeasureUp body composition scanning service.
RELAX IF YOU’VE GOT A LITTLE BIT OF FAT AROUND YOUR HIPS
It is well-known that excess kilos increase your risk of developing health problems, like heart disease or diabetes. But scientists have also discovered something strange: People carrying a few extra kilos are less likely to die of these problems than those who are underweight.
The University of Queensland’s Dr Carl Lavie, author of The Obesity Paradox, was one of the first doctors to spot this. He says, “Very thin people often have the worst prognosis – especially if they are unfit. These people have low muscle and poor muscular strength, which is an important prognostic sign for survival of serious illness. Extra kilos can provide a metabolic reserve.
Note: When you tip from overweight into obese, this protection stops. Also, this does not mean that everyone should become overweight. Dr Lavie says thinner people should not actively gain weight to get the boost. Instead they should improve fitness and build more muscle to strengthen their system.
ONE TYPE OF FAT YOU WANT MORE OF
It’s called brown fat and it collects around the neck, shoulders and chest. As babies, we use this type of fat to keep us warm and until recently, it was thought we lost it as adults. Now, scientists have found most of us still have it. We just need to reawaken it – and one way is to feel cold (so turn on the air-conditioning!).
Studies at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, men who spent a month in a 19 C room raised their levels of brown fat by 30 to 40 per cent. The reason for having brown fat: It burns kilojoules and can help you manage your weight.
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Text: Bauer/Good Medicine/Helen Foster