Fat: the Biggest Gland or Tumour?

Glands are organs or parts of organs that make and secrete substances. Liver is considered the largest glands but perhaps our thinking should change…

Adipose tissue is no longer seen merely as a mostly passive energy storage organ but is now also considered to be an active endocrine tissue that by producing a variety of cytokines, hormones and other proteins impacts on a multitude of physiological and pathophysiological processes in the human body. The adipocyte, whose size and numbers are increased in obesity, is the cellular factory that produces these proteins termed adipokines. We have cultured adipocytes from human adipose tissue and used them as a model to study effects of inflammatory mediators on the production of various adipokines by these cells.

Unfortunately, the substances that fat is secreting are not always beneficial and lead to a variety of problems.

Fat also behaves a lot like a tumour building blood vessels so that it can thrive and grow:

VEGF is a protein, which induces the growth of new blood vessels. It is believed that adipose tissue, when it increases in mass, needs additional blood vessels to secure its supply with nutrients and oxygen. In fact, in mice it has been shown that blockade of VEGF leads to a decrease in adipose tissue mass in these animals. We were able to show in mice, for the first time, that inflammatory mediators injected into these animals led to increased blood vessel growth in adipose tissue. Such increase in blood vessel density in adipose tissue would then in turn result in better supply with oxygen and nutrients and could ultimately lead to growth of adipose tissue.

Of course fat is essential to survival but the bottom line is, it’s not a passive payload. Fat is alive and actively influences your health and body chemistry. More.

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