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One in three Americans is overweight and another third are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But while carrying too many extra pounds can increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, health experts say a little bit of flab may actually be healthy.

But there is a kind of “Goldilocks Effect” — not too much, not too little — when it comes to body fat.

“Researchers have concluded that fat is actually a vital organ that releases hormones and sends special signals to the brain,” notes Dr. Holly Lucille, ND, RN. “Fat is an important macro nutrient and like any other macro nutrient, the quality makes a difference. Having the right kind of fat on your body is both protective and important.”

Jeffrey Friedman, a molecular biologist at Rockefeller University was among the first scientists back in the 1980s to discover that there was more to fat than merely storing calories. In his experiments with mice, he found that fat produces a hormone called leptin which is released into the bloodstream and binds with the areas in our brain that are responsible for appetite.

His lab’s obese mice had a genetic defect in their fat that prevented the manufacture of leptin which gave them the signal to stop eating. Humans with the same genetic defect can eventually eat themselves into obesity and premature death.

So, losing weight becomes a double-edged sword. When we lose fat, we lower our levels levels of leptin, the appetite off switch, and we become hungrier than before.

Leptin also affects our muscles and thyroid hormones so that lower levels of leptin slow down our metabolism. This combined effect drives us to regain weight. It may also explain why extreme dieters who lose vast amounts of weight in short periods of time nearly always gain it all back — and then some, scientists say.

Scientists also know that fat affects the size of our brains. People who are genetically…



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