From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published June 7, 2012 10:22 AM

The Importance of Belly Fat

Exercisers and those on diets know for sure, that losing weight around the midsection can be the hardest thing to do. They should take comfort in that fact, because according to a new scientific study, belly fat is very important to the immune system. Yes, having a bit of a gut can potentially keep you from getting sick. Researchers from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine suggest that this new knowledge about the fatty membrane surrounding the belly, known as the omentum, could lead to new drugs for organ transplant patients and patients with auto-immune diseases.

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The omentum is the fatty layer which surrounds the abdominal cavity and covers most abdominal organs. It is the depository for fatty tissue. It is also know to play a role in physically isolating wounds and infections in this body region.

The research was led by associate professor Madio Iwashima, PhD and Robert Love, MD, renowned lung transplant surgeon. They analyzed the omentum cells of mice and how they interacted with T cells, the immune system’s first line of defense against infection.

T cells normally multiply when confronted with an infectious agent like bacteria or virus. When the researchers mixed in omentum cells with activated T cells, they found that the T cells died rather than multiplied. The omentum cells actually secreted a substance which held down the immune system response.

This finding may prove critical, because it is often the overreaction of the immune system which leads to complications following an organ transplant. Currently, patients are administered immune-suppressing drugs but are riddled with side effects. A treatment based on the omentum, may prove effective and without negative side effects.

The researchers also found that belly fat plays a critical role in regenerating tissues because they contain special stem cells that will migrate to the site of the injury. Stem cells have the ability to develop into various types of specialized cells.

Please do not take this article to mean that is healthy to accumulate belly fat. Obesity can lead to its own complications which everybody knows. However, this research does show that it is useful to have a little fatty layer around the midsection.

The study has been published in the article PLos ONE

Tight Shirt on Fat Belly image via Shutterstock

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