Muffin Tops to Bingo Wings: New facts about body fat - Montgomery Alabama news.

How body fat works in your favor

Muffin top, blubber, bingo wings, saddle bags, love handles, rolls and cankles.

There are lots of words used to described nearly every pudgy part of the human body.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would like to add one more word -- useful.

Dr. Monica Skarulis is the Director of the Metabolic Clinical Research Unit at NIH.

"Fat," Skarulis says, "is not all bad."

While this may seem contrary to what most of us think, NIH scientists are actually using high-tech gadgets like the Bod Pod to find out how to flip the energy-burning switch on our fat.

Inside air-tight, live-in labs, NIH researchers picked up on the weight-loss secret that lumberjacks and pearl divers have always known: Lowering a person's body temperature turns up their metabolism.

If you're trying to get rid of the jiggle around your waistline, it's not realistic to live in a lab or stay chilly all the time. So, researchers are working on a way to tweak the metabolic pathway --specifically, the type of fat that revs up when our body temperature goes down.

Skarulis says our metabolism is "essentially our little engines."

But not all fat is created equal.

There are blobs of white fat versus the fuel-pockets of brown fat.

The type of flub babies are padded with is used for warmth and, unfortunately, quickly used up.

"What makes it so unique is that those areas of fat don't just store energy; they burn energy," Skarulis points out.

Brown fat burns up white fat as fuel and produces heat.

Scientists are studying ways to activate our brown fat that wouldn't require you to be cold.

But until they find the answer, get to know your fat better.

You don't need a Bod Pod to do this. Researchers say measuring your waist circumference is the single best and easiest marker of one's body composition.

Right now, exercising and adding muscle is still the only trick to turning your body into a fat-burning furnace.

Of course, if you're curious, you could also try keeping the thermostat in your home just a little bit lower!

Additional Information:

  • Dr. Monica Skarulis says too little fat tips off metabolic disease causing some people to become diabetic. When there is not enough fat, the body has nowhere to store energy. Fat storage begins to take place in the liver and surrounding organs, causing diabetes. Of course, too much fat also causes diabetes.
  • Skarulis says too little fat leads to reproduction problems in both men and women.
  • In studies, some people who weighed in at a healthy weight on the scale, came back with a body composition of 50 percent fat.
  • Study subjects who went on "crash diets" before a body composition test were easy to identify. Researchers found that any dramatic drop in calorie intact has a big impact on metabolism, severely reducing the body's ability to burn energy. Skarulis says during a crash diet, the body protects it's energy stores (fat) as a way to defend current body weight and preserve muscle.

The following notes are from WebMD.

  • Scientists examine brown fat via PET scans.
  • Activated brown fat burns white fat as fuel, giving off heat and consuming fat.
  • Obese people have less brown fat than lean people do.
  • Men have less brown fat than women do.
  • Older people have less brown fat than younger people do.
  • People with high blood sugar have less brown fat than people with normal blood sugar.

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