Last night I started reading a book by Sylvia Tara called The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body's Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You. Amazon really knows how to recommend books I'll enjoy. I'm riveted to this one. I have to say that for a biochemist, she writes suspense really well. Her stories of "fat gone wrong" unfold like an episode of Mystery Diagnosis.
It's funny because her interest in fat is similar to ours. She describes what she calls "The Burrito Incident." She's a small person, but feels it's only because she exercises regularly, watches her food closely, and counts every calorie. She recalls a dinner with a friend where she ordered a salad and only ate half of it, fretting about her weight, while her smaller, non-dieting, non-exercising friend ate a whole steak burrito with cheese, guac, sour cream, rice, and beans, and washed it all down with a beer, totally unconcerned. This was the first of several incidents in which she noticed that body fat does not seem to behave the same way on everybody. Why can some people look at dessert and gain weight while others eat twice as much food and weigh less? What is fat up to, anyway? How does it work? Why?
She explains the science, but in an entertaining and accessible way, using case studies and personal stories, like the time she hired a personal trainer who had her working out two hours a day (?!) and how that caused her to gain weight.
A few interesting highlights:
Metabolism is far more complicated than the simple arithmetic of a calorie in, a calorie out. We are not pure calorie-burning machines. We are an intricate system of biology, hormones, genetics, and bacteria processing nutrients individually.
Although fat was once thought of as inert blubber, researchers now categorize it as an organ.
Fat appears to be so important that our stem cells are capable of creating it independent of our food intakeó a function that has been observed for critical tissues such as muscle, bone, and brain.
In the body, glucose is cash, glycogen is a checking account, and fat is a certificate of deposit.
You may be surprised to know that our active brains use as much energy as our muscles. The liver is a close second to the brain, with the heart, gastrointestinal system, and kidneys coming in close behind.