Give Now  »

Noon Edition

Obesity And A Lack Of Fatty Tissue

An embroidered representation of the average person's digestive system. Black thread on a mint and white polka dot background.

Imagine you're a doctor. You look at your chart and you see that your next patient has Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

You expect before going into the examination room that you're going to have to discuss how to live with diabetes. Discuss ways to integrate a healthy diet and weight loss routine into the patient's lifestyle.

When you enter the room, the patient is different than you expected. She is 5'7" and only 120 lbs. To look at her, no one would guess that she has all these illnesses commonly associated with obesity.

The Diagnosis

What the theoretical patient has is called lipodystrophy. Lipodystrophy is a genetic condition where a person has an abnormal lack of fatty tissues. Someone with this condition may say they feel hungry all the time. She might be able to eat endlessly and not appear to gain any weight.

For obese patients who have those symptoms, they occur because their fatty tissue is already storing fat. Initially, a patient will keep gaining weight, but when their fatty tissue reaches its limits, the body attempts to find new locations the new fat.

So the fat goes to place like the liver, heart, and pancreas. The above symptoms like Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure then occur.

For lipodystrophy patients, the same process occurs. Because they don't have enough fatty tissues to begin with, any excess food they eat can turn into fat that rushes straight to places such as the heart and liver.

Read More:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science