What is obesity and what is it

Mark wiens


What is obesity and what is it? You've probably heard someone paraphrase "skinny" supermodel Kate Moss when they're tempted by a delicious piece of cake. So what are the causes of obesity? Where does it go when you put it on, and where does it go when you throw it away? The answer is surprising.

We need fat. In the human body, fat is usually stored in fat cells in the form of triglycerides. The triglyceride molecule looks like the letter E. The vertical stroke or backbone of the letter E is a glycerol molecule, and the three horizontal strokes of the letter E are three separate molecules called fatty acids. There are many differences between these three fatty acids. They can be the same, they can be different, or anything in between. The average triglyceride molecule has about 160 atoms -- 55 carbon, 104 hydrogen, but only six oxygen atoms.

We used to think that you wouldn't make more fat cells until you were 20. But that turned out to be wrong. One study deliberately overfed some normal, healthy, overweight men and women. On their upper bodies, they stored 1.9kg of fat and, unsurprisingly, fat cells in this area expanded and got bigger. Surprisingly, this did not happen in the lower body, as they gained 1.6kg of fat there. No! There, below the belt, the fat cells stayed the same, but they grew by 2.6 billion.

Now that's news, but not as big as the startling results two researchers got when they asked what happened to the fat they lost. The researchers are Ruben Mellman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Professor Andrew Brown of the University of New South Wales. First, they surveyed 50 doctors, 50 dietitians and 50 personal trainers, asking the question, "When a person loses weight, where does it go?" About 60 percent answered that fat is converted into heat or energy -- which is false. The only way atoms can be converted into heat or energy is through nuclear reactions. The human body doesn't do nuclear reactions, it only does chemical reactions.

Only a few people -- they are dietitians -- get the answer right. The triglyceride molecule breaks down into carbon dioxide and water molecules. You may remember that the average triglyceride molecule has 55 carbon molecules and 104 hydrogen atoms, but very few oxygen atoms -- just six. You may remember that carbon dioxide -- carbon dioxide -- has two oxygen atoms, while water -- water -- has only one oxygen atom. So, if you're going to split a triglyceride molecule into carbon dioxide and water molecules, you're going to have to add lots and lots of oxygen.

Let's say you want to lose 10 kilograms of fat. That means you need to replenish 29kg of oxygen - that's a lot of breathing, breathing and breathing. In return, you'll save 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide and 11 kilograms of water. How do you get rid of 39 kilograms of carbon dioxide and water? Overwhelmingly, by breathing it out. You may lose a little bit of triglyceride in your sweat or urine, but the vast majority of the atoms that make up the triglyceride molecule inside your fat cells come out of your mouth in the form of carbon dioxide and water. This means that your main excretory organ is your mouth. If you think about it, each breath takes away 33 milligrams of carbon dioxide, and that 33 milligrams of carbon dioxide takes away 8. 9 milligrams of carbon. Indeed, you are what you eat. But can you lose weight by releasing carbon from your fat cells through breathing?

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