What do these names have in common? Well, they all like big bottoms, and today, according to the ABC, so do scientists.
The rather sensational headline “Scientists back big bottoms” isn’t quite the reality; rather they have discovered the reason why it is healthier to carry extra wait on the thighs, hips and buttocks than around the abdomen. That this is the case is old news – it’s why those diabetes ads talk about the measurement of your waistline, not your weight – but now Oxford scientists have determined that not all fat is equal.
There are big differences in the fat cells in different part of the body; for one thing, lower body fat is less metabolically active: it doesn’t quickly absorb fats from your diet or release them when needed for exercise. That’s the purpose of abdominal fat. But lower body fat instead produces the hormones leptin and adiponectin, which assist in the processing of fats and sugars – thus helping guard against diseases like diabetes. In sharper contrast, abdominal fat produces evil hormones that fight the leptin and adiponectin, causing an opposite effect, so having fat everywhere has a net negative effect (well, we already knew that, but now we know it chemically as well). If ever there was a time to misuse the phrase “the battle of the bulge”, this is it.
It’s an interesting reminder that so many of the terms we use are generalisations: fat isn’t just a homogeneous type of tissue which is bad in excess and good in the right amount, it has different types each with different roles to play. And the basic upshot of this news is that if you exercise you’ll be healthier than if you don’t, even if you’re still carrying some weight on your hips. And of course you should carry some weight there, because as the Man in the Lab Coat always says: they’re called pleasures of the flesh because flesh is required.
Now: I’m off to listen to Jonathan Coulton’s cover of Baby Got Back.