Obese people who are trying to lose weight may struggle because their fat tissue is damaged or scarred, a study suggests.
University of Exeter researchers studied a range of fat deposits and discovered fat tissue becomes damaged in overweight people because the cells become suffocated by growth.
This process affects the tissue, making it inflamed, spilling into the blood and may also affect the organs.
Although the findings suggest losing weight can be more challenging for obese people, the researchers state it is still wholly possible, and recommended, to lose weight.
Reducing obesity is particularly important because obesity increases the risk of complications such as type 2 diabetes. Eating a healthy diet low in carbohydrate and high in vegetables can prevent future complications and help with weight loss, regardless of scarred fat tissue.
Lead author Dr Katarina Kos, a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter’s Medical School, said: “Scarring of fat tissue may make weight loss more difficult. But this does not mean that scarring makes weight loss impossible. Adding some regular activity to a somewhat reduced energy intake for a longer period makes weight loss possible and helps the fat tissue not to become further overworked. We know that doing this improves our blood sugar and is key in the management of diabetes.”
The trial looked at a specific molecule called Lysyl oxidase (LOX) which regulates scarring in people with obesity. The team found greater quantities of the LOX gene in fat from overweight people’s tissue as it seems to be driven by inflammation and oxygen levels.
Body shape can change when fat becomes damaged and some might find the area around their tummy becomes larger as layers of fat increase.
Dr Klos added: “One could have very little fat below the skin and still be at risk of diabetes due to a lot of fat within the abdomen and inner organs.
“Further research is needed to determine how to avoid our fat tissue becoming unhealthy and how protect it from inflammation and scarring. There is evidence that once fat tissue becomes scarred, despite weight loss, it may not recover fully.”
The study has been published in the Metabolism journal.

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