Meet Your Fat

Adipose tissue or fat is made of cells, and each adipocyte contains fat molecules which it can keep in storage or send out for conversion into energy. In her book, The Secret Life of Fat, Sylvia Tara, Ph.D., noted that fat cells are very accommodating, and can “expand their volume more than one thousand times normal size by pushing other cell contents off to the side.”

Imagine a balloon that could expand so much. What kind of magical stuff must it be made of?

Besides making you hate your jeans, fat can do a lot of things. Fat controls appetite and holds some sway over human emotions… and rationality itself. Tara wrote,

Brain cells are particularly dependent on fat. Parts of them are sheathed in a substance called myelin, which insulates them and ensures signals are not lost, similar to the way rubber insulates wires. Guess what myelin is made of — fat! Myelin is 80 percent lipids, which means fat is actually required to think.

Fat can reach out and invade other organs, as in Fatty Liver Disease, one of the dangers faced by obese children. It insulates organs and produces heat. It heeds signals from all over the body, and responds by cranking out hormones. These in turn affect such attention-getting conditions as obesity, eating disorders, and diabetes.

Fat is absolutely necessary, and people with a rare condition of having insufficient fat are very sick indeed, if not deceased. When the weight-conscious dieter tries to reduce fat, the body pushes back. It doesn’t realize you are trying to do this for ultimately healthful reasons. It thinks you are trying to kill it. Expanding on this topic, Tara wrote,

The membrane around each body cell is made of fat and cholesterol — the two archnemeses of the modern diet. The membrane acts as a wall around the cell to confine the contents as well as give it structure. It is also a protective shield, allowing nutrients, hormones, and metabolic by-products in and out. In other words, every single cell in our bodies only exists thanks to the lipid-and-cholesterol membrane that surrounds it.

And then along comes the presumptuous human, trying to deny the cell walls the fat and cholesterol they need!

Fat is an organ

Fat is an organ, specifically an endocrine organ, and according to its proponents, the body’s largest organ (not the skin; nor the liver). Like other organs, fat contains nerve cells and blood vessels. Furthermore, it can reproduce itself. It used to be thought that body fat was just a container, “passive storage with no metabolic capabilities.” But as it turns out, adipocytes can make more fat.

Tara compares the whole process to banking practices:

Glucose, a form of sugar, is like cash because it instantly supplies the body’s current energy needs… When we have too much cash hanging around, we deposit some into a checking account. In the body, glycogen is that standby reserve — the liver and muscles create glycogen out of glucose…

Fat is altogether different. Unlike glycogen, fat is not simply glucose stacked away and available… Fat is the certificate of deposit: not easy to get to, but it can safely hold a lot of energy in reserve.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Book Excerpt: ‘The Secret Life of Fat’,”, undated
Image by Open.Michigan/CC BY-SA 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources