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Is This the Reason It's Hard to Lose Weight?

May 24, 2008 | 69,448 views

diet, weight loss, obesity, over weight, fatScientists have discovered why overweight people find it so hard to lose weight; the difference in the number of fat cells between lean and obese people is established during childhood. Although overweight people replenish their fat cells at the same rate as thin ones, they have around twice as many fat cells total.

This means that the number of fat cells in a person remains the same, even after a successful diet.

Until now, it was not clear that adults could make new fat cells. Many believed that fat mass was increased solely by incorporating more fats into already existing fat cells. In fact, people constantly produce new fat cells.

Fat cells are replaced at the same rate that they die, about 10 percent every year. Obesity is determined by a combination of the number of fat cells and their size; they can grow or shrink as fat from food is deposited in them.


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Keeping up with this kind of craftiness is exhausting business indeed, but somebody’s got to do it. The alternative is to allow articles like this to cloud the minds of otherwise intelligent folks like you into thinking that weight has nothing to do with your lifestyle choices, and everything to do with the number of fat cells your parents so rudely handed down to you via the family gene pool.

So let’s take a step back, and take a deep breath to oxygenate your critical thinking centers.

According to the author of this Telegraph story, scientists have now discovered why it’s so difficult for overweight people to lose weight – they somehow ended up with nearly twice as many fat cells as their slimmer counterparts during childhood, which can be linked to a genetic aberration.

And from this revolutionary knowledge, new treatment protocols (read: drugs) to attack the signals and genes in fat cells that control the formation of new cells, and/or gene manipulation, will undoubtedly be born. As Dr. Spalding said, "Until now it was not clear whether there was fat cell turnover in adults. Now we have established this does occur, we can target the process.”

What’s Wrong With This Thinking?

Quite frankly, there’s so many things wrong I don’t know where to begin, so let me just jump right into the middle.

Remember my article in Thursday’s newsletter, Good News About Big Bottoms? Just recently scientists discovered that not all fat cells are the same.

In fact, fat cells around your hips and bottom (subcutaneous fat) “communicate” and affect your metabolism in an entirely different way than the fat cells around your waistline and inner organs (visceral fat). According to those findings, a heavier bottom actually protects you from developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes, because your subcutaneous fat aids your metabolic functioning, whereas visceral fat around your gut predisposes you to those same diseases.

So what could you reasonably assume might happen, were you to take drugs to eliminate fat cells, or fat cell renewal throughout your body? 

Who knows?

But if the history of pharmaceuticals has taught us anything, it’s that the only thing that’s certain is that side effects are highly unpredictable, for the very reasons I wrote about in last Thursday’s article.

And as far as the faulty gene theory goes, science has already debunked the "bad genes" theory, showing that good nutrition can overcome this predisposition!

But, gene therapy is such a lucrative dream. No Big Pharma-funded scientist can bear to watch that dream die.

What’s Fat Got to Do With It?

Contrary to the popular belief that fat cells should be banished, they are an active and intelligent part of your body, producing hormones that impact your brain, liver, immune system and even your ability to reproduce.

What’s more, the hormones your fat cells produce impact how much you eat and how much fat you burn.

One of these hormones is leptin, which sends signals that reduce hunger, increase fat burning and reduce fat storage.

That is, if your cells are communicating properly and can “hear” this message.

If you eat a diet that is high in sugar and grains, the sugar gets metabolized to fat (and is stored as fat in your fat cells), which in turn releases surges in leptin. Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it (just as your body can become resistant to insulin).

And when you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat -- so it remains hungry and stores more fat.

Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.

As Sadaf Shadan states in Nature, there are two contributing factors to an increase in fat mass: the number of fat cells, and how much fat each of them stores (their volume).

So essentially, you can have fewer fat cells and still be overweight because each cell is “maxed out,” if you will, or alternatively, you can have more fat cells overall and be at an ideal weight simply because your fat cells are functioning properly and not storing excess fat.

Either way, you’re in control here.

What Genetic Mutation Disaster Happened in the 60’s?

Interestingly enough, man has not always struggled with obesity.

According to historical analysis, presented in the policy research study: Pub. 757, Public Policy in Global Health and Medical Practice, 2006, obesity began it's climb to become the second leading cause of unnecessary death, back in the 1960’s.

Did man suddenly experience a mass genetic mutation at that time, giving rise to one of the leading health problems of today?


Cultural changes, dietary changes and technological changes had a major impact on the evolution of obesity from then on. Americans, as well as many other countries, now live in a society that encourages excessive food intake, including non-food food-stuffs like processed foods and snacks, and discourages physical activity.

If inappropriate diet and sedentary lifestyles created the problem, how can it be cured by messing around with your genes, or removing fat cells, either surgically or pharmaceutically?

Do You REALLY Want to Lose Weight?

Yes, it’s true:

“The worst part of eating healthy and getting in shape
is that you usually have to get out of bed yourself to do it”

There is no Magic Pill. Some might help kick-start things temporarily, but they can’t keep you there.

There are, however, four tenets of long-term optimal health and weight that remain the same, regardless of the cause:

Remember, obesity is a direct result of poor dietary choices and insufficient exercise. If you simply can't make yourself eat a healthy diet or exercise regularly, then you might want try the hypnosis program I recommend to help end cravings and create a desire to eat right and exercise more.

Final Thoughts

People often ask me why I do this work. Am I not just wangling my own wares like everybody else?

Well the answer is quite simply that I’ve seen far too much needless suffering through my years in medical practice. Absolutely needless suffering -- whether in the form of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stress, you-name-it –because people were carefully manipulated and deceived by drug companies.

The real tragedy is that they never explored the simple options that could relatively easily reverse their illness. The paradox is that most of these alternatives are as free as the air you breathe. Changing your eating habits, getting to bed at a decent hour, learning to say “no” when you’re overloaded, and going for a walk will cost you nothing. But the rewards can be priceless.

Some people insist on calling me a quack because I would promote tanning without sunscreen -- among other things – a decade or so before science finally caught up, proving I wasn’t so crazy after all.

Remember my favorite quote from Arthur Schopenhauer:

All truth goes through three phases

  1. First, it is ridiculed.
  2. Second, it is violently opposed.
  3. Third, it is widely accepted as being self evident.

But that kind of opposition just stems from sheep-like, indoctrinated thinking. They may be exercising their free right to speech, but they’re certainly not exercising free thinking or free will. If they did, they wouldn’t just regurgitate scientific findings funded by industry, without asking some hard questions.

I believe information is more powerful than pills when it comes to creating and maintaining optimal health. That’s why this newsletter is available to you three times a week, every week of the year.  

So stay informed, be the change, and spread it around as widely as you can.

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