“Scars are just another kind of memory.” ―M.L. Stedman
Eating better and getting more exercise are the first strategies most people try when attempting to lose weight. Yet early results can be mixed. One person might see the pounds melting away effortlessly while others struggle to see any progress at all. If you are in the second group, you may be interested to learn about new research that has uncovered a possible explanation. You might have scarred fat—making it impossible to lose weight.
Actually, while it feels impossible at first, you may still reach your goal weight in time. Though it will take a more patient and pragmatic approach. For now, rest assured that if you are trying your best, then the lack of initial progress probably isn’t due to lack of effort or accountability. It’s possible the real culprit is the presence of scarred fat.
So, what is this scarred fat? The latest research has identified a molecule in fat cells called lysyl oxidade (LOX). This LOX molecule is present in higher quantities in the fat of obese persons, and those who struggle with weight loss. It is associated with fibrosis—or stiffening and scarring—of fat tissues. Studies already show that a greater presence of fibrosis can reduce the ability to lose weight, and now we know why.
The role of fatty tissue, also called adipose tissue, is to store excess calories and turn them into lipids. Lipids are high-energy molecules that can be burned later as reserves. The problem begins when these tissues are overloaded with lipids, causing expansion. When they expand too much, the cells become distressed. Distressed cells don’t get enough oxygen and begin to suffocate, leading to inflammation and scarring. The stiffer, scarred tissues are more reluctant to release their stores than healthy tissues, slowing weight loss.
Meanwhile, any extra calories that are consumed still have to go somewhere. They become stored around essential organs—your heart, pancreas and liver are three common places. This buildup is associated with many serious complications, including cardiac disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It can also be stored along the arteries, leading to arteriosclerosis and increased blood pressure.
In addition to harming your health, scarred tissues may alter your body shape by changing how fat is distributed. It is not uncommon for those with more scarred fat to take on more of an apple shape. This is characterized by thinner limbs and a rounder middle—where the scarred fat has accumulated around the organs more than under the skin.
This whole concept of scarred fat is not pretty to think about, but there are three positive things you can take away from the study. First, we now know that having a hard time losing weight can be traced to a clear, physiologic condition that has nothing to do with your work ethic, self-control, or motivation.
Secondly, we can start to see real solutions. A clinician specialist in adipose tissue physiology and obesity-related disorders, Dr. Katarina Kos, who works in the Diabetes and Obesity Research Group at the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, studied this scarring with the hopes of learning how to reverse it (Metabolism, 2018). While the research is new, Dr. Kos’s team provides one important tip for those with scarred fat: It is vital to get regular exercise, especially around meal time. Something as simple as taking a walk after dinner can still make a huge difference over time as long as you stick with it.
As always, you should also continue to be mindful of what you put into your body. This means whole foods and moderation are essential. A somewhat-reduced caloric intake can significantly reduce the stress put on fat tissues and prevent future scarring, but this should never be practiced at the cost of sound nutrition. Remember that a healthy metabolism relies on a balance of vitamins and minerals.
In closing, the final benefit in knowing about scarred fat is motivation. Since we know this condition is difficult to reverse, you may find yourself more energized towards preventing future buildup of excess calories and scarred fat—meaning you’ll find it easier to stick with healthful choices. Plus, by seeking patience from within, you now know that you can be still successful in reaching your goal weight over time. Hope can be a powerful vessel for overcoming any health-related challenge.
What To Remember:
-Stiffer and more rigid scarred fat tissue can make it harder, but not impossible to lose weight.
-People with a lot of scarred fat tend to exhibit an apple body shape.-While scarred fat itself is not dangerous, it can cause and/or exacerbate serious health conditions.
-Regular exercise, whole nutrition, and patience are the key to overcoming scarred fat and successfully losing weight.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (Aug. 2017) Weight-loss Basics Retrieved from Mayo Clinic.
McRae, Mike. (Jan. 2018). Obesity Can Actually Scar Your Fat Tissue, Making Weight Loss Even Harder. Retrieved from ScienceAlert.com.
Pastel, Emilie, et al.(2018). Lysyl oxidase and adipose tissue dysfunction. Metabolism. 2018; 78: 118 DOI: 10.1016/j.metabol.2017.10.002
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