Fat That Causes Cellulite Isn’t Bad For Heart Problems, New Study Says

A big subcutaneous tissue, such as that which characterizes wide hips and thick thighs and can cause cellulite, is not necessarily harmful to health. According to a new study published in the journal Heart Failure from the American College of Cardiology, the increased risk of heart problems is associated with the presence of intramuscular fat, stored in the muscles, even in lean people.

The study was conducted among 2,399 people in the United States, between 70 and 79 years old (48% men, 40% black), followed over 12 years. To assess the presence of fat, experts from the University of Texas used the thigh muscle. The main conclusion is that the fat that surrounds the muscle – precisely the one that usually causes cellulite – does not increase the risk of heart problems. However, those who had intramuscular fat had a 34% increased risk of developing heart problems.

It is well known that being overweight is associated with several health problems, including cardiac events, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and the Depression. But what determines the risk is not so much the total weight of the person as the places of the body where the fat accumulates. Subcutaneous fat, the fat that can be pinched, is the least worrying, experts say, especially if it’s not too excessive.

The fat considered to be the most dangerous is visceral, which accumulates in the abdomen region, thereby increasing the belly. Experts explain that this type of fat is metabolically active, that is, it induces an inflammatory state, increasing the production of chemical substances that contribute to the emergence of certain diseases. According to scientists, the fat that accumulates inside the muscles is of the same type.

“In general, fat deposition is associated with inflammatory processes,” explains Professor Marcus Oliveira, from the Leopoldo De Meis Institute of Biochemistry, at UFRJ. “Systemic and chronic inflammatory conditions are understood by the immune system as a dangerous situation, which responds as powerfully as it would to an external aggressor. Obesity is therefore a much more complex disease than fat deposition.

Fat from the hips and thighs, on the other hand, is less metabolically active and therefore considered more benign. In general, women are better protected than men against fat accumulation in the abdominal area due to their hormones, especially estrogen, which direct fat to the hips and thighs. After menopause, however, this protective effect tends to be reduced as estrogen levels decline.

In other words, while most women hate accumulating fat in their hips and thighs, those with a pear shape tend to have a lower risk of heart problems. In general, women who have a heart attack accumulate more fat in their belly than in their hips.

Increased neck width may also be an indication of an increased risk of heart problems, experts say, as it is an indicator of fat accumulation in the upper body. Women whose circumference is over 35.5cm and men over 43.1cm should be careful.

The bad news is that there is no way to lose fat only in the most dangerous places. In other words, only a change in lifestyle and the general reduction of body fat can prevent problems.

Healthy fats, fiber and exercise are allies

A few tips can help, according to doctors. So-called healthy fats, such as olive oil, prevent the formation of intramuscular fat, unlike saturated fats. Fiber intake also helps prevent the accumulation of fat in the muscles, as well as physical exercises.

One of medicine’s greatest promises for weight loss, however, comes from another type of fat that humans and other mammals also accumulate, brown fat.

In 2009 it was found that in addition to having deposits of this fat (in the neck, collarbone and spine), it has positive effects, unlike white fat (unfortunately much more abundant). Naturally, it activates in the face of intense cold, for example by burning fat to generate heat. I mean, it’s a fat that helps you lose weight.

“When we take an obese mouse and expose it to cold, it loses weight,” says Oliveira. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to work that way with human beings. But there is certainly a window of opportunity being explored: the attempt to develop some form of selective brown adipose tissue activation.

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