Your Fat Cells Are Incredibly Important

For decades, scientists thought fat cells were passive blobs that did nothing more than store energy, bloat flabby hips and bellies, and perhaps wear down the body by forcing it to cart around a lot of extra weight. But as the nation's obesity crisis has intensified scientific interest in fat, researchers have fundamentally altered that view: Fat cells, they now realize, are extraordinarily dynamic, complex and influential entities that affect a staggering array of crucial bodily functions.

The new insights into fat's commanding, self-sustaining powers, scientists say, have profound implications for understanding how flab forms, why it hangs on so stubbornly, how it causes disease, and therefore possibly how to help people shed pounds and avoid the devastating health problems wrought by fat cells. Like guardians of the nation's strategic oil reserve, fat coordinates how, when and where the body's energy supply is stored and how and when it is mobilized. Fat also emits signals that can unleash, or damp down, the immune system. Fat influences when blood clots and when blood vessels constrict. Fat even tells the body when it can reproduce, and when it must await more favorable conditions. And perhaps most insidiously, fat cells most likely beget new fat cells, perpetuating their existence and magnifying their effects. This is quite an eye-opening piece about just how much influence fat cells have over our health--and how important good sources of fat are to the body.

Washington Post July 12, 2004



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