The Role of Fat Cells on Cancer Risk

In this week’s article, we’re looking at the negative effect that excess ‘adiposity’ can have on cancer risk.

What is adiposity?

Adipose tissue is made up of adipocytes (fat cells) and is found all around the body. Although such tissue is critical for energy storage and hormone signalling, too much of it can lead to several health risk factors.

There are two places where adipocytes are stored. One, in subcutaneous adipose tissue (in other words, under the skin), and two, in visceral adipose tissue, which is around the abdominal cavity and other organs, bones and muscle.

As part of the assessment process at our Centre of Excellence in Harley Street, we provide our athletes with a biostat measurement. This provides a clear indication of body fat percentages as well as where the fat is stored within the body, whether subcutaneous or visceral.

Why is adipose tissue so bad?

Adipocytes, also known as lipocytes (fat cells), release hormones called adipokines. These are associated with chronic inflammation and obesity.

There are two commonly known subgroups of obese people; the metabolically healthy obese (MHO) and the metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO). The difference between the two is MHO have less ectopic fat and less visceral fat than MUO.

To go into this in more detail, when some adipocytes (fat cells) mature, they can be stored by the body in ectopic (or abnormal) regions, which can cause several issues such as inflammation, the reduction of metabolic control and the reduction of vascular function.

This increased inflammation caused by excess adiposity not only affects the function of various organs (which in itself causes several risk factors), it also creates an environment that favours tumour development, thus increasing the risk of developing several cancers.

How can we reduce adiposity?

CP+R’s four-pillar model is a proven method to reduce adiposity. Each CP+R athlete is provided with a highly personalised and clinically prescribed exercise programme, which includes resistance training, cardiovascular training, steps and nutrition.

The four-pillar model is designed to:

  1. Increase lean muscle mass, which unlike adipose tissue, is highly metabolically active and increases the basal metabolic rate (BMR)
  2. Increase energy expenditure to contribute to a negative energy balance or calorie deficit.
  3. Allow exercise to be taken at a prescribed heart rate training zone, which improves the body’s ability to utilise fat as energy, contributing to greater amounts of fat being used for energy in daily life
  4. Provide a sustainable nutrition plan, which will ensure the correct number of calories are consumed for each person’s personal goals, for example ensuring a calorie deficit to lose weight
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