Majority of individuals are too preoccupied with preventing obesity for the simple fact that being overweight and having a lot of visible fat on the body has been depicted by media to be the very epitome of ugliness and unhealthiness. Sadly, many folks don’t look at the opposite end of the spectrum – the skinny ones. Science reveals that being thin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always healthy. Here’s why.
Being thin or fat has something to do with how much fat is deposited in the body. However, it is critical to understand that the organization and distribution of fats and how it will be stored in the body is determined right at conception. What this means is that our parents carry the genetic code that will determine how fat will be distributed and stored in the body. This genetic code is written even before we are born.
This is the reason why there are some individuals who store their fat right under their skin in a layer of tissues called the subcutaneous tissue. The fat that is deposited under the skin is aptly called subcutaneous fat. On the other end of the spectrum are those individuals who are genetically-programmed to store their fat deeper inside the body and mostly around organs. As such this type of fat is known as visceral fat.
Individuals with more subcutaneous fat are what we typically describe as obese complete with the visible bulges, flabs, and what-have-you. Individuals who have more visceral fat actually have normal weight. In many cases they also look thin.
So where’s the danger in this?
Science has shown that individuals who have a genetic predisposition to store fat in their visceral organs have a higher risk of developing heart diseases, but most especially non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or type-2 diabetes. There are also clinical studies that show individuals with more visceral fat are also at an increased risk of developing cancer and dementia.
The reason is quite simple especially with regards to the relationship between visceral fat and the occurrence of type-2 diabetes. Individuals with more visceral fat tend to eat more since they have this belief that they are not going to get fat or obese. What they don’t know is that, while fat is not being stored under the skin where it is more visible, these fats are stored in the visceral layers of the body.
Because of the excess glucose and fats in the diet, there is an increased demand for insulin to help mobilize these molecules to the different cells of the body and to store any excess in muscles, the liver, and fat cells.
Unfortunately, individuals who are genetically-predisposed to visceral fat accumulation have also been shown to be at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance. Individuals with insulin resistance usually have problems with glucose metabolism as this is no longer efficiently absorbed into muscle, liver, and fat cells. As such, the body will have to produce more insulin in an effort to get glucose into these cells.
Regrettably, even the body has its limits. Over time it can no longer produce enough insulin to meet the increased demand for it. This leads to the abnormal accumulation of glucose in the blood which is technically one of the distinguishing features of diabetes mellitus.
Medical practitioners see this case quite often: thin individuals having normal weight and normal body mass index. Yet when evaluated further, they have borderline to borderline-high blood sugar levels, elevated triglyceride levels, reduced HDL-cholesterol levels, and stage-1 hypertension.
So, you think being thin is healthy?
Your genetic predisposition to building visceral fat coupled with your risk for insulin resistance is well-regarded in the scientific community as risk factors for pre-diabetes. This means you have as much risk of developing non-insulin-dependent diabetes as someone who is obese.
The good news is that visceral fat is a lot easier to manage than subcutaneous fat. You only need to temper your calorie intake with good ‘ol physical exercise and you should be fine. Limiting your fat and carb intake and increasing your proteins should also do the trick.
With the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems as high as those individuals who are obese, being thin does not always translate to being healthy.