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Biological Machinery

May 16, 2013

Humans like simple, categorized things, even when they say they don’t. That’s just their biology at play, since that is how their brains work. Sure, you can actively work against it, but realize that it happens regardless.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, oversimplification silly! Rarely are there cut and dried answers in this life, with the majority typically falling within some state of gray.

A great example of pigeon-holing is saying all fat people are lazy and if they would just get off their gluteus maximus and exercise for a change, we would all be thin or at least thinner than we are now. Another great example is when a politician says if we just do X, then the economy/country will be better. Just like the biology of a fat person isn’t a “calories in, calories out” machine, so too is a nation not a “one fix will solve all our problems” experiment.

But I still seem to see the same kind of one-size-fixes-all solutions for both. “Our country would be so much better off if we would just…” should be just as much of a trigger phrase as “You would be so much better off if you would just…” Our nations are like a hive of bees that collectively support each other in various endeavors and have the ability to accomplish great feats when put to the task. Our nations are a compilation of millions of individuals, each with different a culture, religion, viewpoint, opinion, and background. But I digress.

Let me count the ways on how exactly things work in the body and WHY it is so complicated. Our bodies are an amazing piece of machinery designed for survival on this planet. Because of this, we have thrived for hundreds of thousands of years. Every single one of you reading this is the byproduct of evolution, of our ancestors fighting for survival coupled with successful breeding. As a result, our body is an incredibly delicate specimen and very much a perfectionist. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that reproducing is extremely difficult biology-wise. Everything has to go a specific way or else the body will reject the cells and shed the uterine lining.

Like other tissue in the body, adipose tissue has different, but important roles. Nothing in the body has just one role; even the heart that pumps your blood also has secondary roles, like producing hormones for certain things (when you have a heart attack, doctors check for these hormones of distress which leave you with the sense that something is wrong). As far as adipose tissue goes:

“In humans, adipose tissue is located beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat), around internal organs (visceral fat), in bone marrow (yellow bone marrow) and in breast tissue. Adipose tissue is found in specific locations, which are referred to as adipose depots. Apart from adipocytes, which comprise the highest percentage of cells within adipose tissue, other cell types are present collectively termed stromal vascular fraction (SVF) of cells. SVF includes preadipocytes, fibroblasts, adipose tissue macrophages, and endothelial cells. Adipose tissue contains many small blood vessels. In the integumentary system, which includes the skin, it accumulates in the deepest level, the subcutaneous layer, providing insulation from heat and cold. Around organs, it provides protective padding. However, its main function is to be a reserve of lipids, which can be burned to meet the energy needs of the body and to protect it from excess glucose by storing triglycerides produced by the liver from sugars, although some evidence suggests that most lipids synthesized from carbohydrates occurs in the adipose tissue itself. Adipose depots in different parts of the body have different biochemical profiles. Under normal conditions, it provides feedback for hunger and diet to the brain. …

Free fatty acids are liberated from lipoproteins by lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and enter the adipocyte, where they are reassembled into triglycerides by esterifying it onto glycerol. Human fat tissue contains about 87% lipids. There is a constant flux of FFA (Free Fatty Acids) entering and leaving adipose tissue. The net direction of this flux is controlled by insulin and leptin — if insulin is elevated there is a net inward flux of FFA and only when insulin is low can FFA leave adipose tissue. Insulin secretion is stimulated by high blood sugar which results from consuming carbohydrates. In humans, lipolysis (hydrolysis of triglycerides into free fatty acids) is controlled through the balanced control of lipolytic B-adrenergic receptors and a2A-adrenergic receptor-mediated antilipolysis.” [Emphasis mine]

Adipose tissue is more than just fat reserves and plays an important role in “intuitive eating.” And if that last paragraph didn’t astound you into thanking your body, you should go back and look closely at those terms. Basically, your body takes one form of substance, disassembles it, takes some parts and reassembles it into something totally different and with an amazing amount of energy. Every one of those triglycerides that are produced can be cleaved for energy equaling about 1,134 calories (or 1,134,000 “physics” calories). Plus, the body is incredibly efficient with these stores of energy.

I think it was posted somewhere, but if we used gas instead of food, our bodies would get roughly 1,300 mpg on a bicycle. Holy crap.

And I am sure you have seen the video of Dr. Friedman about how the body is 99.6% efficient in calibrating its energy balance. No other human-made machine is that efficient.

If you are interested in the exact breakdown of all the biological things your body can do, I recommend buying or renting Campbell’s Biology, 9th edition. It not only thoroughly dissects every possible biological system including cells and chemical pathways, but it gives all this information in a fascinating manner.

Kitsune Yokai

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2013 8:48 am

    It’s amazing to me how much we *don’t* know about our bodies—particularly about endocrine/metabolic processes. I was kind of shocked when I started seeing my new endocrinologist and she said I was a textbook case of PCOS but that PCOS itself is still basically a mystery: its interactions can be observed, but its causes remain unknown. The simple fact is that we don’t, collectively, have a handle on this stuff yet.

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