STEPS 3 & 4
Last week, I discussed why food is more than just calories and is really chemical information. I also gave you the two steps you can take to start achieving optimal health. These steps where to appreciate what fat can do for us and to rid the body of excessive inflammation. Let’s continue this week by going over the other two steps that will send you down the path toward optimizing your health. The first step will go over today builds on the “appreciating what fat can do for us step.” And that step is, learning where fat comes from and where it goes. The second step, is something we all are somewhat familiar with “exercise.”
Where Does Fat Come From?
You’ve probably heard of stem cells, immature cells derived from embryos with the potential to grow replacement parts for any organ. When we eat foods that send specific messages to these stem cells that we need to conserve fat, they will convert themselves into fat cells. Stems cells can convert themselves into more than just fat cells and we should capitalize on their protean nature. We should encourage stems cells to turn into muscle, blood vessel, nerve, and bone cells. We see this when people who have optimized their body composition. Fat tissue belongs to a class of body material called connective tissue, which includes collagen, bone, muscle, blood, and associated cells.
It is possible to drain fat cells, this metabolic process is known as transdifferentiation. Transdifferentiation allows fats cells to leave adipose tissue and migrate to become new muscle, bone, and even brain cells. Important to note that this works both ways any muscle, bone, and brain cells can convert themselves into fat cells. There is evidence that all tissue types have the potential to transdifferentiate.1,2,3 Although this kind of cell transformation has only been, so far, observed in a laboratory setting. The research opens the possibility that one a fat cell on your thigh today may have once been a muscle or bone cell living somewhere else in your body. There are many foods that send the wrong messages, telling our bodies to create more fat cells and coincidently almost all of them are pro-inflammatory. A pro-inflammatory diet stresses our cells, and transdifferentiation converts all kinds of cells into fat. Here are a couple examples:
- In patients with age-related dementia, grey matter (darker tissue of the brain) get replaced by cells containing excessive amounts of fat4
- Weak bones resulting from Osteoporosis, have had bone-forming cells replaced by fat cells5
- Fatty liver, is normally caused by fat cell formation at the expense of normal functioning liver cells and is the major cause behind chronic indigestion and gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms (like heartburn)
The Big Picture
To put this all together in one large picture, when muscle, bone, nerve, and other cells are denied a full complement of vitamins, amino acids, minerals, etc. they receive that as a signal to start creating and storing fat. Fat making can seem like the body’s default setting, but this is only true in periods of stress and/or nutrient deprivation. When the body gets all the whole real foods it needs, along with the exercise and rest it needs as I talk about here in a moment. It’s default reaction is to convert unwanted fat cells into something better.
Now let’s talk about the fourth step in our starting plan to optimal health, exercise. We have learned fat cells can convert themselves into more preferable kinds of tissues. The question is how can we order them to do this? One of the most effective ways to send that message it with exercise. Exercise is important because it generates signals to build muscle, bone, or other lean tissues instead of unwanted fat. Dr. Robert Lustig, has stated “the reason exercise treats obesity is not important because it “burns” calories. That ridiculous, twenty minutes of jogging is one chocolate chip cookie. I mean, you can’t do it. One Big Mac requires three hours of vigorous exercise to burn off. That’s not the reason exercise is important.”6 Fats cells jealously guard their stored energy. But when you exercise enough to trigger new muscle growth, the process of building muscle drains fat cells of some of their energy-rich content, essentially “burning” fat. Even more incredible, fats cell can be convinced to undergo the same kind of cellular suicide that tumor cells can, a process known as apoptosis.
Three Ways, Exercise Works Effectively to “Burn” Fat
Number one, it increases insulin sensitivity, so you need to produce less insulin to get sugar out of your bloodstream.7 This allows your insulin levels to drop, which tells your fat cells to slow the conversion of sugar into more fat. Two, exercise reduces the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol will pack fat around organs as opposed to under the skin. The organ fat produces lots of pro-inflammatory chemicals, which in turn tell your body to produce yet more fat. Third, exercise builds new blood vessels through muscle and adipose tissues, which enables your body to readily burn fat.8
Fact of the week
Fat produces pro-inflammatory factors that stimulate its own growth.9
More fat will send louder signals to the body to create still more fat. These fat cells will also invade other tissues. This can even be seen in thin people with poor diets, which will encourage fat to infiltrate healthy tissues. When fat invades, we develop cellulite, weaken bones, and brain and muscle atrophy.
Fortunately, for us, fat cells can be retrained. Our cells react to the signals we send them through diet, activity, and other factors. Your cells will do the best they can to comply. And once you’ve cleared your body of excessive inflammation, exercise will help your body know what to do with the food it gets.