Adipose Tissue In The Body – What Is Its Function?

“Adipose tissue” is a phrase that is well known by individuals who are in the process of dieting; however, usually under a different term….

What is that special term?  Well, when an individual is overweight or even obese, they are said to have a high amount of adipose tissue or …body fat.  It can be found under the skin (subcutaneous fat), packed around internal organs (visceral fat)

In men, it is often stored in surplus around the midsection, like this:

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Now, body fat generally gets a bad reputation, as we hear about people who have basically no (or very little) body fat, and they are considered the most, let us say, “aesthetic” among us.

It is accurate that it is healthier, overall, to store less body fat, but for some of us, it is more difficult to do this, for a variety of reasons.

That said, don’t misunderstand what body fat, aka adipose tissue, is, and does.

Body fat is a necessary part of our body’s make-up, but we start to run into problems when we store too much of it.

According to Pubmed, “As a consequence of their increased total adipose tissue mass, morbidly obese patients have many more fat cells than individuals of normal weight and the cells are enlarged compared to normal. Contrary to earlier beliefs, fat cell numbers can increase throughout adult life.”

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So, bigger people can have more body fat, both in terms of the number of cells, and the size of the cells as well.

But what is body fat’s job, or purpose, anyway?

Body fat that is a loose connective tissue in which main function is to store energy, in the form of fat.

You see, if we are storing fat, it just means we technically have more “stored energy”, that takes the form of fat, and which people in society tend to stereotype as being less appealing to look at, which has lead to the stereotypes of beauty from past decades.

Remember Baywatch?  These people generally did not have an excess of adipose tissue.

cast of baywatch

Adipose tissue, or body fat, is located beneath the skin around your internal organs, in your bone marrow, inter-muscular and within the breast tissue.

Body fat is perfectly normally, and we do need it, but there comes a point where we have it in excess for our frame, and it becomes problematic for our health.

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Adipose tissue is increasingly present in Western society, due to consuming too much non-lean foods, which turns into unhealthy types of fat, which can be hard to shed, because of where they get stored in our body.

adipocytes

Adipocytes

Adipose tissue is comprised of adipocytes. The purpose of the adipocytes in adipose tissue is to store this energy in the form of fat, which, again – some of these fats are “good” fats, and some of which can be “bad” fats.

For example, a certain amount of fat, or adipose tissue, is an advantage because it helps to both insulate and cushion the body.

This tissue, which itself contains many blood vessels, is also present around the internal organs and works to protect the organs from damage.

Adipose tissue also performs the role of storing energy in the form of lipids, which are used to dissolve fatty acids, waxes, sterols etc.

Too much of the wrong type of adipose tissue, however, and it will cause you problems, as we stated earlier.

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Adipose Tissue – Growing and Multiplying as we age

According to the NIH, “During infancy and adolescence, adipose tissue is growing by a combination of increase in fat cell size (to a lesser extent) and (above all) the number of these cells. In adults, fat cell number is constant over time in spite of a large turnover (about 10% of the fat cells per year) when body weight is stable.”

As we age, a number of factors play a role in determining the amount of adipose tissue cells in the body, including the amount of fat contained in the cells including hormones, diet, genetics, physical activity and innervation.

In order to reduce the amount of adipose tissue that is present in your body, you will need to undertake a diet and exercise regimen, but it is a delicate balance of exercise and consumption that allows you to lose weight over long periods of time.  No crash dieting!

Weight loss, and diets, in particular, are more complicated than many people think…but that’s another story.

Did you know that the colour of your fat matters as far as if it is healthy or not goes?  That’s what we’ve been hinting at all along – the “bad” vs the “good” fats.  Well, that can be determined by the colour of the fat.  We’ll get to that soon enough.

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In addition, adipose tissue produces essential hormones such as leptin, estrogen, resistin, and cytokine, which can affect our weight on both a short term and long term basis.

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Being a key connective tissue, adipose tissue holds 20-25% of total body weight in a healthy human body.

Individuals who find that they are quite overweight and simply cannot lose the amount of adipose tissue they need to lose may need to seek alternative means, such as surgery.

It should be noted that this is a serious undertaking and before selecting surgery to dispose of adipose tissue, a thorough consultation should be scheduled with a knowledgeable physician.

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White vs Brown Adipose Tissue

It is important to distinguish the difference between white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue.

Again, the government says: “While white adipose tissue is specialized for energy storage, brown adipose tissue has a high concentration of mitochondria and uniquely expresses uncoupling protein 1, enabling it to be specialized for energy expenditure and thermogenesis.”

Brown adipose tissue, which is used maintain body temperature, is more metabolically active than white adipose tissue.

In individuals who are at their ideal body weight, between 15 and 25% of the body weight is typically adipose tissue.

Here are some helpful videos related to this topic.

Ok, that’s all for now!  Comment below…