Fatty tissue is a type of connective tissue of the human body that performs a variety of vital functions. Fatty tissue consists of individual fat bodies, which appear under the microscope as comparatively large, empty (since formerly fat-filled) roundish cells. The fat cells are grouped together by loose connective tissue, which gives them a lobular structure. The proportion of fat tissue in the body depends on a variety of factors, but mainly on the ratio of physical activity to energy intake.
Functions of fatty tissue
There are different types of fatty tissue, and with them different functions: 1. the storage – or depot fat. As the name suggests, this fatty tissue mainly serves as an energy store in case the body cannot access energy in the form of food over a longer period of time. A person can survive on this storage fat for up to 40 days, depending on his or her constitution.
Nowadays, this fact is more of a burden than a benefit for many people, because the storage fat mainly affects the stomach and hips. The proportion of stored fat varies between 10-15% for athletes, 15-25% for normal weight people, and up to over 50% for obese, i.e. obese patients. Bodybuilders can achieve body fat percentages of less than 6% in competitive phases, but a minimum percentage of 3-5% (men) and 10-13% (women) is considered essential for survival.
2. The insulating fat: Fatty tissue is an excellent heat accumulator. It is not for nothing that seals or polar bears, which have to survive in cold areas, have a large layer of fat to keep them warm.
This is due to the fact that fatty tissue conducts heat far worse than any other body tissue such as muscle tissue. 65% of the fat tissue is located in the subcutaneous tissue (subcutis) of the human body, the rest is located in the abdominal cavity. 3. fatty tissue is very soft and flexible, therefore it serves as a buffer and protection against external mechanical influences.
Especially joints and internal organs need a special cushion, because they are very sensitive and at the same time very important for the body. In the abdominal cavity, for example, there is a large fat apron at the level of the ribs, the so-called omentum majus (large abdominal network). It covers the front abdominal organs such as the small intestine and parts of the stomach.
There is also fatty tissue above the kidneys, the cheeks, or in the eye socket. However, this is only converted into energy in extreme emergencies, i.e. in extreme states of hunger. In severely emaciated people, the eyes therefore always look sunken, because the fat pads behind them have been mobilized and the eyes “fall back”.
There they have a half-life of only 1-2 minutes – which means they are metabolized very quickly. Muscles and organs prefer free fatty acids to the sugar molecules that are also floating in the blood. Fatty acid synthesis (lipogenesis) is stimulated by the hormone insulin, fatty acid breakdown (lipolysis) by the hormone glucagon.
A high blood sugar level, for example after a meal, causes insulin to be released, stimulates the synthesis of fatty acids, and thus the storage of blood sugar in the form of fatty acids in the fatty tissue. It is therefore not without reason that insulin is often referred to as the “fattening hormone”. Long-chain sugars, such as those contained in rice or wholemeal products, usually have to be broken down before they can be absorbed into the fatty tissue.
This makes them healthier than the short-chain carbohydrates contained in white bread and beer. An excessive amount of fatty tissue can be disturbing for both cosmetic and medical reasons. On the one hand, a high percentage of body fat is often accompanied by psychological bleeding.
On the other hand, fatty tissue has a high weight (around 940 grams per liter), and thus places a great mechanical strain on bones and joints. Vessels and organs also suffer from too much fatty tissue and their function can be impaired. A well-known example of this is arteriosclerosis.
In order to prevent life-threatening consequences such as thromboses or cardiovascular diseases, the attending physician primarily strives for natural weight reduction in the form of more physical exercise and healthier/conscious nutrition.The basic idea is to reduce the storage fat, which holds the energy reserves of the body, by creating an energy deficit. Simply put, if the body consumes more energy than it takes in, it falls back on the storage fat – you lose weight. If this form of therapy is not successful due to lack of patient cooperation or other circumstances, invasive measures such as stomach reduction surgery can be used.
In this procedure, a band is placed around a part of the stomach and this is artificially reduced in size. As a result, the body is able to absorb less food, build up less energy reserves, and as a result, less fatty tissue is created. Through increased physical activity, the fatty tissue can be significantly reduced within half a year to a whole year.
Other, non-invasive measures also aim to reduce the size of the stomach, for example by ingesting a type of sponge that expands in the stomach and reduces its volume. In general, it can be said that avoiding short-chain carbohydrates (such as white bread, sweets and soft drinks) and high-fat foods (pork neck, salami) always leads to a reduction in adipose tissue. In the opposite case, in case of severe malnutrition, a high-calorie diet is indicated.
This can be achieved by special food preparations, which usually have an energy content of more than 2 calories per gram. The aim here is also to restore the protective, insulating and energy storage function of the fatty tissue. By the way, a widespread misconception is that one can reduce fatty tissue in these areas alone by targeted training of individual body parts, such as the abdomen or buttocks.
The reduction of fatty tissue is centralized, the fat distribution patterns (i.e. the places where fat is preferably applied) are gender-specific and individually different. Roughly speaking, it can be said that men prefer to apply fat tissue in the abdominal area, while women prefer to apply it in the hip area. One speaks with men also of an apple-shaped, with women of a pear-shaped distribution pattern.
A reduction of the fat tissue located there is only possible through a general lifestyle change and not only through locally concentrated training. After all, the cells of the body are in a constant process of remodelling, which is why the fatty tissue is always redistributed according to the genetically predetermined distribution pattern. Of course, isolated training of a single part of the body also burns energy and reduces fat tissue – but not necessarily in the exact area of the body that is being trained.