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See Inside September 2007

What Fuels Fat

The human bodys ability to store energy as fat seems haywire in a world full of food. Understanding how our complex energy-regulating systems can falter and lead to obesity is revealing new ways to fight excess weight

At the dawn of humanity, and for much of our history since, meals were literally catch-as-catch-can. Because humans evolved in a world where food was available only intermittently, survival required that we have the capacity to store ingested energy for times when none was around. Adipose tissue, familiarly known as fat, is the organ specialized for that task.

Our ability to store fat remains essential to life and can allow a person to survive starvation for several months. In very recent human history, however, the amount of energy packed away as fat has been increasing in many populations. When fat storage approaches a level that compromises a person’s health, we call it obesity.

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