Fat. Friend or Foe?
The complicated relationship that we as humans have with fat is one that has lots of strands and interests.
Our cultural referencing tends to create the idea that fat is a bad thing and certainly the link between obesity and poor health is one that has mileage. Obesity in isolation as a health risk tends to do what all these arguments do, which is to set aside accompanying factors.
Being fat is no longer the domain of the wealthy, with fat jolly upper class gentlemen depicted in Dickensian novels as the ruling classes, contrasting with the poor, wraith like creatures of the slums.
Fat has therefore sociological aspects to be considered as well as dietary. The rise of sugar consumption being parallel to that of obesity seems fairly obvious, yet the link remains associative rather than causative.
Nutritional science has little in the way of consensus and there is wide spread disagreement relating to even the most basic ideas of how much and what type of fat should be in our daily diet. Similarly ideas about weight, fat distribution within the body and what type of exercise is best for you, still contradict themselves on a daily basis.
Then there is the ‘burn belly fat,’ websites that scream at you to buy their most scientific finding of utter rubbish. My personal self loathing is my fat wrists and I am therefore under a strict exercise and diet regime aimed at burning the fat at the bottom of my arms.
The terms we use for fat are also something of a misnomer. Superficial fascia is something that could more agreeably used to describe the tissue found directly beneath the skin. There seems to be an idea that this is a tissue that is simply a fatty layer and therefore undesirable wherever it may be.
Adipose, superficial fascia, the pannicular layer are all terms that cover the same tissue. Recent attempts to classify the superficial fascia as having separate layers, with one more defined as distinct from the fascia cutis is interesting.
However the studies undertaken have only looked at the layer around the abdomen and attempts to classify the whole body based on such a small area of study would seem a little ambitious.
In this video of fresh abdominal superficial fascia, you can see that there is a weaving of collagenous like tissue (no samples were taken) through the fatty layer.
This is consistent throughout all the dissections I have been in, with the superficial fascia a continuous structure that running around the whole body. This theory has never been more clearly demonstrated than by the unique approach taken by Gil Hedley, whereby the skin and superficial fascia is removed from the underlying deep fascial layer and laid side by side as below.
Some areas are of course thicker than others, but the principle is consistent. Even if you were to take all the fat away from this layer, then the fibrous content would remain.
The principle of fat containment within fascia is the same as that of muscle containment within fascia and obeys a basic biological principal: you cannot have cells without something to hold them in place. In the case of both the muscle and the fat, the container is the connective tissue we know as fascia.
In addition we know that adipose itself has a major role to play in the functioning of the body, with evidence suggesting that adipose might even function as an endocrine organ.
The debate about what to call it, what it does, as well as a clear understanding of how it gets there, genetically as well as environmentally, will no doubt continue for some time to come. In the meantime our battle with the bulge will no doubt continue, profitably for many and miserably for many more.