The Secret Life Of Fat And Hormones: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

Fat and hormones influence our bodies and our quality of life far more than most of us may initially know. Here's what to keep in mind to maintain health

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September 18, 2019
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Fat is not only an aesthetic problem, but it has a complicated influence on our body and mind. It causes serious health conditions, depression, and hormonal imbalance. That’s right, there is a secret life of fat and hormones in our bodies which can seriously affect the way we look and our health. Here are 5 things you didn’t know that can drastically change the way you observe your diet, exercise, and overall appearance.

Sleep affects hormones and eating habits

Sleep is one of the most important activities you can do for yourself since it helps the body and mind in a multitude of ways. One of them is the proper control and production of hormones, specifical cortisol. When you don’t get enough sleep the body produces more cortisol, also known as the stress hormone which can incite the production of glucose by breaking down muscle tissue. This will increase your blood sugar and make you eat more.

On another note, sleep deprivation for only one night leads to suppressed production of leptin – a satiety hormone. So, you want to eat more and preferably the food of lower quality which is generally bad for you. Meditation, yoga, soothing sounds and eliminating electronic devices seems to help the quality of sleep, but also find a way to deal with stress as well.

Fat is an organ

There are parts of our bodies that we never perceived as organs before like skin which is considered to be the biggest one of all. However, contrary to what you believed, fat is also an organ and not a tissue. Fat has a function and it’s producing hormones your body needs like leptin which is directly connected to the brain size, among other things. For example, people with anorexia experienced their brain mass decreasing as their leptin deposits were lower.

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If you don’t have enough leptin, bones will turn more porous and your reproductive system won’t work properly. Even if you have plenty of fat, it may miss some important genes and not produce leptin which can affect the reproductive functions, cause irregular periods and prevent the maturity of organs. Therefore, the body needs fat to produce leptin and all those starvation diets do a lot of harm to your health.

Sugar is connected to fat

The basic principle of functional medicine is that hormonal balance, sleep, and a healthy diet are interconnected. When you eat, you introduce glucose into your blood which gives the body energy and the surplus is stored into glycogen and fat. Glycogen is located in muscles and liver and it takes a little bit of work from your body to turn it into glucose again. But since fat is storage intended to later use, it’s harder to get to. This all means that with physical activity you will first use glucose and glycogen and not fat.

However, storing fat is good since it prevents glucose, glycogen, and lipids to store in the heart, liver, and other organs which is harmful. Another important thing is that fat differs from person to person because of different genetic profile and metabolic processes. Also, viruses and bacteria in the gut can affect the way fat is deposited in the body.

There are good and bad fats 

There are different types of fat in our bodies. White fat can be subcutaneous which is right under the skin and visceral which is stored under the stomach wall and the dangerous one which causes serious health conditions. The way to remove visceral fat is through exercise since it increases the production of adiponectin hormone which controls how much of this bad fat you will have. But having too much of subcutaneous fat is not good as well since it can deposit in inappropriate places and cause trouble.

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Then, there is a good fat called brown adipose tissue or BAT. It has two roles in the body: to store energy and produce heat. Beige fat is newly discovered and it can turn into brown if you exercise while exposed to cold. For example, swimming in cold water or running in cold weather will make the body burn calories and increase brown fat.

Women have more estrogen and ghrelin

Estrogen is more present in women than in men and is important for mental health, cognition and can suppress binge eating. Women tend to get more weight as they grow older because ovaries produce less estrogen and eventually stop this production completely. However, fat also produces estrogen and having too much of it leads to weight gain, among other things.

On the other hand, ghrelin is a hunger producing hormone and women get more of it than men after exercise. Since women have it more, they normally have more fat than men since their bodies are naturally driven to have it. On the positive note, women tend to have more quality fat than men even if they have it in higher quantities.

Final thoughts

It seems that the connection between fat and hormones is more complex than perceived and getting to know it might help us leave a healthy life. These 5 things you didn’t know show how important it is to monitor the fat quantity and also quality in our bodies. This is possible through proper and personalized diet, exercise and regular health check-ups to make sure you are on a good path.