Everything I Eat Turns into Fat
By Cynthia K. Buffington, PhD
Have you noticed how fast you are capable of gaining weight if you don’t watch the amount and type of foods that you eat? Do you feel as though everything you eat turns into fat? Well, actually, that statement may not be that far from the truth.
Weight gain and excessive obesity cause the body to become highly efficient in storing fat. Obesity increases the ability of adipose (fat) tissue to store fat in order to protect other tissues from the toxic effects of high fat in the blood stream, a condition known as lipid toxicity.
Adipose tissue is the only tissue in the body with the capacity to store large amounts of fat. Other tissues are capable of storing tiny amounts of fat for the purpose of maintaining membranes, providing fuel for energy, producing hormones or for various other functions. However, none of these tissues are designed to take up, store, or utilize the large amounts of fat circulating in the blood of many individuals with extreme obesity and an overload of fat in these tissues has toxic consequences.
Exposure of the liver to high amounts of fat causes metabolic changes that contribute to the development of fatty liver disease, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Fat overload on heart cells may cause self-destruction of specific cells of the pancreas (beta cells) that secrete insulin, causing insufficient production of insulin and diabetes. In muscle, fat overload may cause insulin resistance, a condition that significantly contributes to the development of various obesity-associated diseases, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, gout, hypertension, and progressive liver disease (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis).
In an effort to protect the body against the toxic effects of fat, the amount of adipose tissue and its capacity for fat storage is substantially increased. With obesity, the enzyme needed for the uptake of circulating fat into adipose tissue is enhanced and the breakdown of stored fat is reduced, thereby lowering the amount of fat in the circulation. Furthermore, severe obesity is associated with an expansion of adipose tissue resulting from an increase in the replication of adipose tissue (fat) cells and a reduction in rates at which these cells self-destruct.
With massive weight loss, a substantial reduction in adipose tissue occurs but, at the same time, there remains the increased potential for fat accumulation caused by the high numbers and altered metabolism of fat cells.
What to Do: The bariatric patient, therefore, must be ever mindful of the need to comply with their postoperative dietary regimen. Even short periods of 'cheating' could cause rapid weight gain because many of the calories over-consumed are literally being ‘turned into fat’. So if you veer off track during a meal, simply navigate right back to your healthful eating plan.