June 11, 2009

Fat: Not Simply Innocent Excess Pounds

I’m just back from the American Diabetes Association 2009 Scientific Sessions and feel compelled to shout out to all who will listen, especially parents of younger and older children and people on their way up the scale, that more and more research points to the many damaging impacts of excess pounds on long term health. Fat is not simply excess pounds of inactive tissue.

Those extra pounds – 10, 20 or more that people pack on by simply eating a few extra calories day by day, year by year; cause irreparable damage to normal body functioning. Yet, as a society, we are becoming so accepting of extra pounds and resign ourselves to their existence and the way of eating that pack them on.

Research shows that fat, or adipose tissue, is very active tissue – there’s lots going on. As fat cells grow damage occurs: from causing increases or decreases in hormones and how our brain, gut, pancreas, liver and other organs to signal our body to control weight. These disruptions can initiate the cascade of events leading to insulin resistance which, for millions of children and adults, leads to a host of medical problems including high blood pressure, abnormal lipids and type 2 diabetes.

And it’s clear that once we disrupt these normal mechanisms with weight gain significant and irreversible damage is done. The challenge to get and keep weight off, even 10 to 20 pounds is nearly insurmountable for most. Results of the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study and the four year data from the LookAHEAD trial presented at the ADA meeting, along with results of the POUNDSLOST study reiterate this point. The body is simply changed forever.

We need to figure out ways to prevent weight gain or further weight gain in the first place. Healthy eating and being physically active continue to be the cornerstones...and boy do we have a lot of work to do!