Fat Not a Dirty Word

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Fat has a important body function.

Laurence T. Gayao, MD

Yes, fat not a dirty word at all, however now a days the word fat has a rather a negative connotation. That was not so during my younger years growing up in the Philippines, being fat then had a more positive flare to it. It meant you were healthy, that you were financial well of to afford all that good food and you did not have to do all that hard physical labor.

During that time you would hear often people say to each other, “You’re looking good, getting fat, life must great!” and that would be taken as a compliment. Now a days it would not be cool to tell to someone he or she is fat unless want to be get slapped in the face. Don’t we often at times say the phrase with disgust, “Ugh, I am so fat.” These days being fat often implies some sort of a stigma, of one who lacks self-control, has lack of knowledge or a slob.


Obesity On the Rise World Wide

I am sure you have heard reports in the media that researchers have found that over the past 33 years, worldwide overweight and obesity rates among adults have increased by 27.5%, while such rates among children and adolescents have increased by 47.1%. We know that with obesity increase there has been also a proportional increase in:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • certain types of cancers


Fat in the Body- Not a Dirty Word

First of all let me emphasize,  fat is essential for good body function, in fact is a body organ. Now, let us talk about fat. You may be surprised to know that there are two distinct groups of fat tissues: White and brown fat tissues. Both of these groups of tissues are important for good body function. They secrete important hormones and substances that affect our immune system function store and burn energy. Depending on the amount of white fat tissue one has would affect ones health in a positive or negative way.


White Fat

 White fat tissue also known a white adipose tissue (WAT) is the principal energy storage for humans. Whatever extra calories you take is stored in these tissues and when the energy needs could not be provided for by the body the store calories are mobilize. This was important for our ancestors who had to survive in feast or famine conditions. During times when food was abundant they gained weight and when food was lean they used the stored calories to insure their survival.

WAT is found under the skin and around internal organs. Too much of this tissue would result in hormonal imbalance, affect the immune system causing inflammatory changes, insulin resistance causing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, certain types of cancers. Over weight also is a strain to weight bearing joints causing arthritis.

Your waist circumference is a good measure the amount of WAT one has but this has may vary with sex and ethnicity.  A healthy body fat percentage for females 15-30% of body weight and for males 15-25%.


Methods to measure body fat:
  1. Skin Calipers to measure the fat thickness.
  2. Bioelectrical Impedance. …
  3. Hydrostatic Weighing. …
  4. DEXA (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) …
  5. Air-Displacement Plethysmography. …
  6. 3D Body Scan.


Brown Fat

Brown fat or brown adipose tissue (BAT) is derived from muscles. These tissues are made up of cells which are the power house for energy in the body, where calories are burned. They are full of mitochondria that were the energy were the food is processed to produced and giving it the brown color. This fat cells help you maintain a healthy weight and also keeps you warm.


At birth we have a higher number BAT but this declines with age which explains why as one gets older it is harder to maintain one’s weight and why some individuals manage to maintain a healthy weight in their life time. Some of us may be lucky because of our genetics we have an abundance of BAT.


How Activate Brown Cells
  1. Cold temperatures activate brown fat

“In one study, Swedish researchers scanned five subjects after they’d spent two hours at temperatures ranging from 63°F to 66°F, it boosted their brown-fat activity 15-fold. Cold temperatures send a signal to your brain, which then acts to stimulate brown fat activity in two ways: by acting on your vascular system directly to increase blood flow to your brown fat stores and by sending nerve impulses to brown fat cells that stimulate am additional boost in cellular activity.


  1. Eat more apples—with the peel on

Ursolic acid—a substance that occurs in high concentrations in apple peels—increases brown fat and muscle mass, while at the same time reducing obesity and improving glucose tolerance. Other foods that contain ursolic acid include cranberries, blueberries, plums, and prunes, as well as the herbs oregano, thyme, lavender, holy basil, bilberry, devil’s claw, peppermint leaves, periwinkle, and hawthorn. Animal studies have also found that the herb bitter melon appears to increase brown fact activity.”

  1. Regular Exercise

 The same Swedish research team also feed a group of mice that resulted in making them overweight and having high blood sugar. They then injected these rats a daily dose of kynurenic  acid to break down kynurenine and they continued to be feed a high fat diet. Exercise result in muscle producing and enzyme the converts Kynurenene to kynurenic acid.

Despite of no change in their diet this group of mice lost weight and their glucose (sugar) tolerance improved. They think it is possible that kynurenic acid activate brown fat to boost metabolism and lower blood sugar levels.

How to Maintain a Healthy Weight

We are all different from each other as to the best way to maintain a healthy weight but in general follow these simple rules:

  • Regular and adequate sleep
  • Avoid stress or learning to deal with stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid sedentary activity
  • Avoid under and over eating
  • Maintain a healthy plant base diet
  • Taking the right amount of calories
  • Avoid manufactured food

It is important to set goals and to have a buddy or a group to help and motivate you to attain your goals if you have experience difficulty in doing it alone.

My Personal Program

Personally, I had to change my eating habits from when I was working regularly in hospitals. There was almost no limit to free food for physicians working in the emergency department and they were not the healthy kind. Now, I usually take a vegetable fruit shake in morning and afternoon and a regular noon meal. Doing this has cut down on time for food preparation and cleaning up the mess in the kitchen so my wife and I have more free time for other things. We noticed too that this has resulted in better sleep and more time and energy to exercise.

How do I stay motivated? In spite of all my health set-backs in the past, the simple answer is: I love and enjoy life and I would like to do all I can to stay healthy, happy and share what knowledge I gained to feel the same way. Remember, the grave is not our goal, keeping in shape is.







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