There’s good and there’s bad body fat. Everyone needs a certain amount of body fat, because body fat keeps your organs warm and that you have a storage place for energy. For example, the body fat ensures that if you do not eat, you still have energy for, among other things, your basic metabolism. Even while you sleep, your body still needs energy. Thanks to stored fat, this is not a problem.
However, you can also have too much of something good and that is certainly the case if you have too much body fat in the wrong places. So even if you have a lot of body fat in relation to your amount of muscles, this doesn’t even have to be that bad. It is not only about the amount of fat, but also about the type of fat and that has to do with where you store your extra fat.
Types of adipose tissue
Adipose tissue is specially developed tissue to store unnecessary energy in the form of fat. Initially, it was thought that the function of adipose tissue was purely to store body fat, a kind of energy storage shed. We now know that adipose tissue is a organ that produces hormones itself. Among other things, it plays an important role in our energy metabolism. But in overweight people, adipose tissue is also the source of chronic inflammation through the production of cytokines.
Adipose tissue and energy metabolism
Adipose tissue plays an important role in our energy metabolism.
When you eat, your body gets energy directly from your diet. What it doesn’t need is initially stored as glucose and glycogen in muscles and your liver. This is quickly available energy, for example if you need to react quickly, jump quickly to the side because a branch falls down or a cyclist cycles along it. But your body has only limited capacity to store glucose and glycogen: full is full. Too high blood sugar is dangerous, so an excess of glucose has to get out of the blood anyway.
If you no longer have a place to store glycogen in your muscles and liver, your body converts the excess glucose into fat (triglycerides) and stores this fat in your fat cells in adipose tissue in the first place. This energy is less quickly available.
As long as your insulin level is high, your body can’t burn body fat to get energy. As soon as your insulin level gets low, for example if you don’t eat for a long time, so for example when you sleep, the amount of glucagon goes up and your body starts burning body fat. This also applies to when you’re in ketosis. Even people who don’t follow the keto diet can be in ketosis for a while during the night.
This is how energy metabolism goes in healthy people.
Overweight and impaired energy metabolism
We now know that if you suffer from long-term obesity, your energy metabolism will be disrupted. This is why it’s so hard to lose weight. If you are overweight, you are almost certainly insulin resistant. Your body will no longer be able to break down fat and the fat cells will become fuller and fuller. At some point, they are so overcrowded that they continuously start leaking small bits of fatty acids. This leads to a build-up of fat outside the fat cells. This is very harmful to our organs. Because organs are continuously exposed to small bits of fatty acids, you develop diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, etc. In addition, it will activate your immune system excessively.
Overweight and cytokines
There is an increasing number of research linking obesity to an increased risk of cytokine storm. In a cytokine storm, your immune system runs wild, you get a hugely exaggerated and uninhibited reaction from your immune system that causes your body to attack itself. This can be in response to a virus. At the time of the Mexican flu, people often died from a cytokine storm and not from the virus itself. It looks like this also applies to COVID-19.
If you are severely overweight, not only do you have too much fat tissue, this adipose tissue also no longer works properly. Due to the continuous release of hormones, it enters a state of chronic inflammation, also called low grade inflammation. As a result, it will continuously excrete inflammatory cytokines. Ultimately, this will also lead to silent inflammation in one or more organs.
Studies have also found that this leads to a weakened adaptive immuun response. This makes you more susceptible to virus infections.
Visceral or subcutaneous body fat
Adipose tissue can accumulate in different places in the body. For example, it appears that adipose tissue that accumulates in the visceral area, close to Bodies such as the liver, kidneys, intestines or heart and in the abdominal cavity is more susceptible to inflammation in obese patients than fat that is subcutaneous (under the skin).
In addition, there is a link with sex hormones, as men are more likely to fatten around organs while premenopausal women are more likely to develop subcutaneous fat in the limbs and hip region. Fat around the organs is much more harmful.
Overweight and the lungs
If you are severely overweight, this also has an effect on your breathing. Visceral adipose tissue hinders breathing, so you are less able to breathe in and exhale deeply. In addition, fat accumulation in the soft tissue of the pharynx can increase inhalation resistance (hence the link between overweight and sleep apnea).
Adipose tissue and virus reservoir
At the moment, due to COVID-19, research is also being carried out into the extent to which adipose tissue functions as a virus reservoir. Researchers know that other viruses often occur in high concentrations in the adipose tissue. So it would not be strange if this also applies to COVID-19 and that the adipose tissue then helps with a rapid spread of the virus throughout the body. This could have to do with the fact that there are many ACE-2 receptors in the adipose tissue around the organs and the virus clings to that to enter the cells.
Moreover, it could have to do with the fact that someone who is obese also has many more fat cells outside the adipose tissue and viruses (including COVI-19) may spread even easier and faster.
Biggest risk factor is not obesity
The biggest risk factor for a serious course of COVID-19 is the degree of exposure to the virus. So it matters a lot whether you are exposed to a lot of virus at the same time and your immune system has to react immediately, quickly and adequately to get the virus under control or if you are exposed to a little virus.
Where did you get visceral fat?
Belly fat (visceral fat) is the result of years of one or more of the following things:
- food with added sugar (sweets, cake, jams, desserts etc. products with added sugar, breakfast with added sugar (e.g. cereals, muesli with added sugar – this can be in the form of honey etc), soft drinks, fruit juice, coffee/tea with added sugar or taste syrup, sweeteners)
- processed products, products with many ingredients, apple juice, for example, is a processed product because the fibers are broken down
- insufficient protein and insufficient healthy fats (and therefore no feeling of satiety)
- seed oils
- too many eating moments in a day
- too much stress
- insufficient sleep
Visceral fat builds you up little by little. Over the years a kilo here and a kilo there, it happens almost unnoticed.
Visceral fat: how to get rid of it?
Fortunately, it is quite possible to get rid of your bad fat (visceral fat). The vast majority of people who follow a clean keto diet over a longer period of time lose visceral fat piece by piece.
If you want to get rid of visceral fat much faster and this generally works especially well in men, then you can do TRE, this is what the Stop Fatty Liver Challenge is based on.
Another option is to combine the keto diet with intermittent fasting or with a longer fixed. You have the best chance of success if you make sure you are already fat-adapted. To become fat-adapted, you can participate in the fat-adapted challenge.
There is a probably very small group of people where the above does not work enough. This is often because you have become resistant not only to insulin but also to a very high degree to leptin. In such a situation, the carnivore diet can be an option for you. If you want more information about this, you can send me a message.
Links to scientific research
Would you like to read more about this yourself? Here you can find a number of links to the studies: