Research and Science

Scientific Support and Validity for the Regional Adipose Tissue Deposit Profile

Lastly, below is a broad summary of scientifically validated findings on various body shapes and morphing due to changes in subcutaneous fat tissue and or muscle wasting that indicate validity to the regional adipose tissue deposit profile methodology.

I won’t go into too much detail here because this is the basis for an entire course not just a summary, but I will highlight some more significant concepts as it relates to the regional adipose tissue deposit profile.

"The relationship between regional fat distribution and health has come clearly into focus within the last 10 years. Over that span of time, several prospective epidemiological studies strongly suggested that in addition to total body fat, the location of that fat plays an important role in the risks of cardiovascular disease and in the risks of developing diabetes, hypertension, gallbladder disease, stroke, and overall mortality. It appears that at least three principal components of body fat are associated with the health outcomes. The first component is the total amount of body fat expressed as a percentage of body weight. The second component is the amount of subcutaneous truncal or abdominal fat (upper-body fat). The third component is the quantity of visceral fat located within the intra-abdominal cavity. These components are partly correlated with one another but none the less exhibit a fairly high degree of independence."

Basic and clinical aspects of regional fat distribution

Bouchard, Claude, George A. Bray, and Van S. Hubbard. "Basic and clinical aspects of regional fat distribution 1-3." American-Tournai of Clinical Nutrition (1990): 52-946.

It is well established and accepted scientifically that the main reason men and women have the “apple” vs. the “pear” shape is mainly due to hormones and in this case testosterone vs estrogen. So we already know that those hormones have a big impact on fat deposition in certain areas of the body. And once you establish and accept that, it isn’t a far leap of faith to start investigating how other hormones effect the physical characteristics of the body including where fat may accumulate. In fact it isn’t a debate on if body fat deposition is a sign of chemical imbalance or dysfunction but whether or not we can pinpoint exactly what type of imbalance with enough certainty to try and implement a solution to the problem.

"To understand the mechanisms regulating adiposity and adipose tissue distribution in men and women, significant research attention has focused on comparing adipocyte morphological and metabolic properties, as well as the capacity of preadipocytes derived from different depots for proliferation and differentiation."

Sex differences in human adipose tissues - the biology of pear shape
Journal "Biology of Sex Differences"

Biology of Sex Differences 2012 3:13
©  Karastergiou et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012

The study of diseases have given us most of the clues to start down the path of investigation:

For example, Cushing’s Disease has shown us how hormonal imbalances can affect the physical shape of the body and in this case the deposits of adipose tissue in certain locations such as the abdominal and neck areas of the body. Cushing’s disease is caused by an excess amount of cortisol secretion.

Because of such study, there is extensive research surrounding weight gain in specific areas of the body such as how increased Cortisol tends to create more visceral abdominal fat due to dysregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis or HTPA axis).

This is another clue that if the science has established definitive causal relationships with relative certainty then what other chemical imbalances might cause morphing within the body?

We could continue to point to clues like this all day long, but there is no question that hormones affect the physical shape of the body, through changes to the internal chemistry but the question is how much of the physical shape or in this case the depositing of excess adipose tissue deposits can be used as a marker for hormonal imbalances and or as a diagnostic tool to establish a method to weight management, health and performance. Science is moving in the direction of proving that physical changes are valid indicative symptoms of underlying causes that can be relied on as markers of health factors that lead to good or poor health of which obesity is just one aspect albeit one of the most visible signs.

Sex differences in human adipose tissues – the biology of pear shape. Karastergiou K, Smith SR, Greenberg AS, Fried SK. Biol Sex Differ. 2012 May 31;3(1):13. doi: 10.1186/2042-6410-3-13

Additionally, thanks to the 21st century effect of some really bad foods, chemicals, nutritional and lifestyle habits... scientist have been able to begin to study what extreme dietary or physical habits do to you your chemistry. Typically research is not allowed to be done in circumstances where it may create harm to the research subjects, but when they have already self-inflicted this harm we can begin to study what it has done and the how’s and why’s. For example too much time spent in sedentary positions, too much time spent stressing, too much sugar intake… our society and modern lifestyle has given us a plethora of “too much” to study and analyze the effects.

One example is Type 2 Diabetes. It has been on a rampant increase and has given the scientific community a huge amount of data on what excess glucose and resulting insulin resistance does in terms of the chemistry of the body, damage to the organs and deposition of weight. Insulin resistance causes more central adipose tissue including the suprailiac (muffin-top) and abdomen.

In addition deep adipose tissue deposits in the abdomen have been shown to be correlated with insulin resistance: "Indeed, it has been suggested that the subcutaneous abdominal adipose depot be regarded as two compartments, the superficial and the deep, separated by the fascia superficialis. The size of the deep subcutaneous depot has been shown to correlate strongly with the level of insulin resistance and to have a higher lipolytic rate than the superficial subcutaneous abdominal fat depot. Such studies suggest that the visceral fat depot, in combination with the deep subcutaneous depot, both contribute to insulin resistance."

What about estrogen and xenoestrogens? The study of obese woman can give us clues that increased testosterone contributes to upper body fat (apple) more like men and increased levels of estrogen are correlated with lower body fat (pear)

What about low testosterone in men or the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in a process called “aromatization” which leads to upper body or trunk fat making men appear to have excess breast tissue?

Evidence of these fat deposits are becoming well documented in the scientific literature so that macro-science has been established. The next phase is investigating the micro-science and how to use it to pinpoint issues and reliably act on the findings to rectify problems. This is where the scientific literature is still exploring the possibilities but like all good science it relies on anecdotal evidence in the field based on observations from individuals and health practitioners. It allows scientists to hone in on the significant questions to be answered.

One thing I will express in more detail regarding the 12 site Regional Adipose Tissue Deposit Profile is that not all locations of measurement factor equally in the science that supports them. For example the science on the fat that accumulates around the knees and calf is pretty thin right now which is why it is has slightly less emphasis in our algorithms as it would have to be really bad to pop up as a priority issue to be looked at and addressed. We emphasize those areas that are well documented scientifically and that we believe have some macro solutions to addressing the potential problems. We are working to develop an entire course on this topic along with our methods and tech platform, but that being said the purpose of Six Sigma Fitness™ is to take the time consuming details out of this work and create actionable scientifically valid protocols that the Practitioner can use with their client's programs. 

In general, this is just the tip of the iceberg and as such it is an over simplification of a complicated subject but we believe fat deposits can indeed be one of several ways to assess an individual and form a basis for a methodology to move them back to a path of health.