From Web Md. Com, 9/27/02
No matter where fat is, it belongs to the entire body.
How do I get rid of
my love handles?
Questions about fat
burning and spot toning/reducing are our most popular question. The short answer is that you cannot spot reduce, and the way
to burn fat is through aerobic exercise, which burns lots of calories; resistance exercise, which builds muscle (muscle is
the engine that burns calories and maintains your metabolic rate); and then watch your caloric intake.
1. There is
a genetic factor that determines where people accumulate fat. Women tend to accumulate it in their hips, buttocks, and thighs,
and men tend to accumulate it in their abdomen. The reasons for the differences between sexes have not been identified. Some
people accumulate more fat than others, and the reasons for that have not been fully identified either, although there are
2. The fat that accumulates on the hips, thighs, and buttocks, although perhaps not cosmetically appealing,
is not dangerous for your health. In fact, there is some evidence that it is actually good for your health. The opposite is
true for abdominal fat. That fat has been implicated in heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. Men with a large
pot belly are therefore at increased health risk, whereas women with large hips or thighs are not necessarily at risk, at
least not from the fat on their lower extremities.
3. Fat, no matter where it is on the body, belongs to the entire
body, so you can't spot reduce, i.e., you can't do sit-ups and lose abdominal fat, and you can't do leg raises and lose thigh
4. Fat is stored in special fat cells called adipocytes located all over the body. You have anywhere from 25
billion to 275 billion adipocytes. The average individual has around 30-35 billion. These adipocytes store fat and they release
fat. When they release fat, the adipocyte gets smaller, and when they store fat, the adipocyte gets larger, just like a balloon
that you fill with air or release air from. Contrary to popular belief, adipocytes do not divide when they get too big. Instead,
what happens is that as an adipocyte absorbs excess fat and increases in size to approximately 15-20 microns (the diameter
of a human hair is 100 microns), it sends a biochemical signal to adjacent adipocyte precursor cells called preadipocytes
to absorb fat and grow larger. These preadipocytes then become fully mature adipocytes, and as a result, the individual gets
fatter. During childhood and into puberty, both the number of mature adipocytes (hyperplasia) and the size of the adipocyte
increases. It is believed by many scientists that the number of adipocytes stays fairy stable after adolescence and instead
of an increase in the number of adipocytes during adulthood, the mature adipocytes enlarge to increase body fat. However,
there is some recent evidence to suggest that the number of mature adipocytes can also increase during adulthood. In any case,
what is certain is that excess caloric intake leads to increases in body fat, either through hyperplasia or through enlargement
of the adipocyte.
It should be noted that
preadipocytes develop from special cells in the body, and although genes control proteins that control preadipocyte function
and development, the process is extremely complex and not well understood, but scientists are busy studying it.
other point on this subject. Adipocytes do not disappear when they get smaller. They shrink only to a certain size, and then
they just hang around as very tiny adipocytes, and they can always get large again. The only way to get rid of them totally
is through liposuction.
get large by feeding them. If you eat more calories than you burn, some of the excess carbohydrate will be stored as sugar,
or glucose, in the muscles (called glycogen), and the rest of the excess will be stored as fat in the fat cells. If you continue
to eat more than you burn, you continue to feed the adipocytes with fat and you get fatter.
6. When you exercise,
the adipocytes release fat into the blood stream, where it circulates around to the muscles that need it for fuel (a car burns
gasoline, our bodies burn fat and glucose). The more you exercise, the more calories you burn. But when you exercise, you
cannot choose which adipocytes release fat. It would be nice to say, "release fat from my hips," but that's not how it works.
What does happen is that when you exercise, adipocytes get a signal from hormones circulating in the blood stream to release
fat (sort of like putting your foot on the gas pedal in your car to get the gasoline flowing to the carburetor), and adipocytes
from all over the body get released. During exercise, your muscles may be burning fat released from fat cells in your face,
shoulders, arms, abdomen, and other locations. You don't have control over that, and some adipocytes are more sensitive to
those hormones and release more fat than other adipocytes. They also tend to release in a consistent pattern that is probably
determined by genes. Everyone who has ever lost and regained weight more than once can tell you that the pattern of their
weight loss is almost always the same. Many people lose from their face first, but it varies. In most cases, it is the hips,
thighs, and buttocks for women that goes last, if it goes at all.
7. Aerobic exercise stimulates the adipocytes to
release lots of fat. That fat will be burned by the muscles during exercise, and if not, it returns to the adipocytes for
8. Weightlifting also stimulates the adipocytes to release fat. Another advantage to weightlifting is that
it builds muscle. Muscle is the engine that burns calories and sets your metabolic rate. It's a good thing to have lots of
muscle, so any weightlifting is beneficial. Not only that, but when you lose weight, you lose some muscle too, which makes
it harder to lose more weight (remember that muscle burns the calories), so weightlifting during weight loss helps preserve
the muscle, and also enhances your ability to lose and maintain weight.
9. Weightlifting will tone muscles, too. If
you do leg exercises like lunges, it will tone the muscle under the fat, and that will improve the contour of the leg, but
it will not remove fat. Likewise, abdominal exercises will tone and tighten the abdominal muscles, and your pants may even
fit looser even though you don't lose weight.
10. There is evidence that adipocytes in the hips, thighs, and buttocks
tend to resist releasing fat into the blood stream. It seems these adipocytes are stubborn, and they don't like to give up
fat. This is not good news for people, women especially, who want to lose fat in their thighs, hips, and buttocks, but it
does provide some explanation as to why it is difficult for women to lose the fat in their lower extremities. On the other
hand, there is evidence that adipocytes in the abdomen do release fat into the blood stream easier than lower extremity fat.
That's probably one of the reasons why men can lose their gut faster than women can lose their hips. The adipocytes in the
abdomen seem to cooperate more.
11. For women, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are also factors in how much weight and body
fat you accumulate and lose. Of course, age is a factor, too.
12. Cellulite is caused by irregular patterns of connective
tissue beneath the skin, and as the adipose (fatty) tissue, which forms in compartments of little honeycombs, pushes into
the skin, it causes the dimpling of cellulite. It has been shown that people who have cellulite have different patterns of
connective tissue than people who don't, and men tend to have this pattern much less than women. Cellulite is not directly
a function of excess weight, but a genetic difference in the way adipose tissue and connective tissue form. In fact, cellulite
affects people whether they are overweight or not. Skin creams sold to reduce cellulite make the skin swell so that the appearance
of the cellulite changes, but the effects are transient, don't look that good, and do nothing to change the structure of the
connective tissue. Biochemically, cellulite does not behave any differently than other fat and there is no health risk to
cellulite. Weight loss and exercise can have some effect on cellulite, but in many of the cases it does not significantly
change the appearance.
13. Diet is important. No matter how much exercise you do, if the calories consumed exceed
the calories burned, you will not lose weight or fat.
14. People frequently report that they recently started exercising
and dieting. Recently could mean a few days to several months. Patience and realistic expectations are important when it comes
to weight loss and fitness. You can expect significant improvements in strength in 8-12 weeks, weight loss of 1-2 pounds per
week (but often less for many people), some muscle tone in 8-12 weeks, and improvements in mass in 3-12 months. All of these
time frames are estimates, and the results depend on how much body fat and muscle you have to start, your fitness level when
you start, age, gender, length of time you have been sedentary and overweight, how often and how hard you workout, diet, and
perhaps most important, genetics.
15. The bottom line to losing fat in the hips, thighs, buttocks, love handles, or
anywhere else is to stimulate the adipocytes through exercise to release fat into the blood stream. You can't spot reduce
for the reasons I've mentioned. Fat you burn will come from all over the body. Lunges will not stimulate the leg muscles to
lose more fat first, and abdominal exercises will not stimulate fat loss in the abdomen.
16. Finally, there are things
we have control over, and things we don't. As much as we exercise, as much as we diet, we may never have the "perfect" body
that we desire, and it's not our fault.
Weil, MEd, CDE, is an exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator. He has published dozens of articles on exercise
and health and has appeared on many television programs. He also speaks about health at many national conferences.
The opinions expressed
herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have a question about your health, you
should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.
Aug. 19, 2002.
High Blood Pressure Closely Related
to Body Weight
By Michelle Rizzo,
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Being heavy goes hand-in-hand with having high blood pressure,
especially for women, according to researchers.
Dr. Yehonatan Sharabi, of the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues examined data from the Young Adult Periodic Examination in Israel database
of healthy young people, ages 25 to 45 years. A total of 38,558 subjects underwent periodic examinations
between 1991 and 1999. The team assessed the relationship between blood pressure and weight, taking into account age, sex,
physical activity, and cigarette smoking. As reported in the American Journal of Hypertension, they
found that as body mass index (BMI) increased, so did blood pressure -- in both men and women.
The odds ratio for having clinical hypertension increased by 16 percent for each additional unit of BMI. Also, each
year increase in age raised the odds by 6 percent. "The relative propensity of men toward hypertension,
typical of this age group, was less pronounced at higher BMI values," Sharabi's team reports. On the other hand, the investigator
told Reuters Health, "Young obese women loose their gender-related protective advantage in terms of the prevalence of hypertension."
People "should be aware that the deleterious effects of obesity come early on," Sharabi cautioned, and young women
should be particularly aware that they are at risk for hypertension if they are overweight.
SOURCE: American Journal of Hypertension, May 2004.
2370 - 9/1/03
A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (August, 2003) shows that lack of physical fitness is a major
cause of impotence. Dr. Eric Rimm of the Harvard School of Public Health showed that men who run for three or more hours per
week, or play tennis five hours a week, have a 30 percent lower risk for impotence. In previous studies, Dr. Rimm reported
that having a large waist, or either not drinking any alcohol, or drinking too much alcohol also increase risk for impotence.
Risk factors for impotence are the same as those for heart attacks. The most common cause of impotence
is a having a poor blood supply to the penis. Therefore anything that blocks blood flow to the penis increases risk for impotence
and anything that increases blood flow to the penis helps prevent impotence. Dr. Rimm presented his studies on alcohol previously
at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association. He showed that men who have one or two drinks a day have lower
cholesterol, and better blood flow to the penis, than those who don't drink at all, or those who drink to extreme. So taking
one or two drinks a day helps prevent impotence. On the other hand, taking more than two drinks a day increases risk for impotence.
Overweight people and sedentary people often have high cholesterols and are at increased risk for heart
attacks and therefore they are at increased risk for impotence. Men with waistlines of 42 inches or more were twice as likely
to be impotent as men with 32-inch waistlines. Men with beer bellies are at high risk for diabetes, which blocks blood flow
to both the heart and penis. Therefore men with beer bellies should be treated as diabetics and avoid refined carbohydrates
in flour and sugar-added foods.
If you are impotent, go to your doctor and get tests to measure your cholesterol, HBA1C to see if you
are diabetic, a blood test for testosterone, and a prolactin to see if you have a brain tumor. If your cholesterol is high,
or you have diabetes you should be on a heart attack prevention program that will also help you to regain your potency. If
all of the tests are normal, you should still be on a heart attack- prevention program because the odds are overwhelming that
anything that helps prevent heart attacks will also help prevent and treat impotence. Go on a diet that is loaded with fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, reduce your intake of meat, chicken, and whole milk diary products. Avoid
smoking and being overweight. Reduce your intake of bakery products and sugar. Start an exercise program. The message in today's
Annals of Internal Medicine is that the more vigorous your exercise program, the less likely you are to be impotent. Now that
the information is out, women will be even more likely to seek out men who are fit.
Annals of Internal Medicine, August, 2003