Scientists may have come up with an explanation as to why some people who carry a bit of extra fat can still be healthy.
The findings come from a study led by Dr. Natalie Haywood, from the University of Leeds, who admitted although the notion you can be overweight and completely healthy is a ‘myth’ there may be an explanation as to why some people are ‘fat but fit’.
Researchers looked at a receptor called IGF1-R, which is known to play a role in the growth of new blood vessels, and found people who are overweight but have a seemingly healthy metabolism may have an especially good blood supply to their fat cells.
During the study, the team removed IGF1-R in the cells lining the blood vessels of mice who were fed a high-fat diet and found new blood vessels grew into the fat. In turn, this led to protection against heart and circulatory diseases in the long term.
As a result, Dr. Haywood explained:
People with better blood supply to their fat may be more metabolically healthy and could be protected against heart and circulatory diseases.
According to the researchers, poor blood supply to fat can switch it into an ‘unhealthy’ state in which the fat cells release inflammatory signals that can promote the development of diabetes, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure, About Manchester reports.
It’s unclear why the new blood vessels had such positive effects but the researchers suggest blood vessels in fat may release bioactive chemicals which encourage fat cells to ‘brown’.
Brown fat cells burn calories to generate heat and help to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dr. Haywood spoke about where the scientists plan to go with the new information, saying:
The next step is to identify the healthy bioactive signals released by blood vessels so that we can potentially harness them to combat heart and circulatory disease in obesity.
Though the findings might sound like a good excuse for you to skip the gym, the scientists have pointed out you should stick to healthy eating and regular exercise.
Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, explained the research is in its early stages and emphasised having too much fat can cause a wide range of health issues.
This research may explain why some people who are overweight are more at risk of heart and circulatory disease than others. It’ll take a lot more research before we have a new drug to keep these fat cells healthy.
For most people, with or without obesity, the best medicine will be a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
The scientists hope to protect against heart disease by developing drugs which can recreate the process seen in the study.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.