Ice cream, candy bars and energy drinks are usually not the staples for a diet. These items were top of the menu however, for a new Mayo Clinic study to help participants intentionally gain weight. The study was conducted so Mayo Clinic researchers could better understand the mechanisms of how body fat grows.
Their research concluded that an increase in abdominal fat may put one at risk for metabolic disease. Ironically, their findings also discovered that fat expansion in the lower body, such as the thighs, may lower one’s risk.
The study which appeared in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also indicates that metabolic disease caused by this accumulation of fat in the upper body can lead to other health issues. Its Journal states, “The metabolic syndrome is a clustering of risk factors of metabolic origin that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”
According to Michael Jensen, MD Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and lead author of the study, “The cellular mechanisms are different.” “The accumulation of abdominal fat happens largely by individual cells expanding in size, while with fat gain in the femoral or lower body, it’s the number of fat cells that increases. So, different mechanism, different impact.”
The study followed nearly 30 participants for eight weeks. Fifteen of the recruited were men, while 13 were women. They dined on giant candy bars, shakes made with ice cream and high caloric drinks. They were allowed to eat almost anything. Each participant gained nearly ten pounds, with most of the weight gain in the upper body. The interesting finding is that the fat cells in the upper body seemed already pre-groomed with specific proteins called preadipocytes to remain fat cells. Remember, the upper body fat cells got larger, while the number of fat cells in the lower body merely increased.
The participants’ body fat was measured at the end of their gluttonous eight weeks, specifically looking at how it was distributed in both the upper and lower body. These findings are unique in that prior research indicates that the number of fat cells in adults could remain unchanged.