Glance at any magazine rack at the grocery store checkout and you will likely encounter countless perfectly defined celebrity bodies. If you’re like me, you stare at these hard bodies in open-mouthed awe as the conveyer belt carries your food to the clerk.
While many doctors and media images would have you believe that being thin is the ultimate indicator of a person’s health, the scientific community has recently uncovered compelling evidence to the contrary.
In a recently published study, researchers in Cambridge discovered a positive correlation between a slim waistline and the fat that surrounds internal organs. The publication, which involved over 75,000 participants, appeared in the June 2011 edition of Nature Genetics.
New statistical analysis of the insulin receptor substrate 1 gene demonstrated that an inverse relationship often exists between the amount of external — subcutaneous — body fat and the amount of visceral fat that surrounds internal body organs.
Lead researcher Dr. Ruth Loos from the Medical Research Council in Cambridge weighed in on the results and the effect of genes in fat accumulation.
“Genetic variants keep you lean by reducing how much fat you store under your skin. … These individuals are then more predisposed to store fat elsewhere, such as in the liver and in muscle,” Loos said.
These results suggest that the claim of possessing a “fast metabolism” as explanation for why some individuals who eat a high calorie, high fat diet may appear thinner than others with a similar diet is not totally accurate. According to this study, however, those individuals may actually have more internal fat surrounding his or her metabolic organs that is hidden from the naked eye.
According to molecular, cellular and developmental biology graduate student Shawhin Shahriari, these results substantiate the observation that some thin people are actually in poor athletic form, despite a lack of visible fat.
“The results are actually quite logical. A thin individual may display qualities that lead us to believe they are in excellent physical condition when this is not actually the case. This person can surprisingly be outperformed by another that does not seem as physically fit,” Shahriari said.
The “lean gene” we tend to attribute to individuals who can eat a high calorie, high fat diet without amassing subcutaneous fat is often complemented by a raise in visceral body fat, as well as a variety medical complications including but not limited to higher levels of “bad” cholesterol, lower levels of “good” cholesterol and increased resistance to insulin.
Researchers also found that the genetic variant responsible for this difference in fat accumulation was often more apparent in men.
“The effect may be more pronounced in men due to the different body fat distributions between the sexes. Men store less fat than women, so they are more sensitive to changes in its distribution,” Loos said.
The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is apt in this situation. Thus, my advice to all you fellow Gauchos is, “Don’t judge all bodies by their image.” But all fat aside, just take care of yourself, love yourself and relish in celebrity’s possible body visceral fat… or whatever makes you feel better.