Your fat doesn’t just hang around passively; or, why stress is good for you

by | May 29, 2024 | Aging gracefully, Brain Health | 0 comments

Dr. Ronald Lavine practices chiropractic in New York City and Princeton, NJ

Like the other organs of the body, your fat cells respond to signals from your nervous system. When the body is called to action, the brain alerts fat cells to release energy into the circulation so it can be used by your heart, lungs, and muscles.

If this process breaks down, you get sluggish, accumulate fat, and age prematurely.

Scientists have identified specific neurons in the hypothalamus of mice that trigger fat cells to release energy. As the mouse ages, these neurons lose their spark, the signal strength is diminished, the mouse gains weight, and, ultimately, dies. By genetically tweaking these neurons to prevent their age-related decline, researchers can extend the lifespan of the mice by 7%. That’s the equivalent of 5 years for a human.

This isn’t coming soon to a drugstore shelf near you. You can’t genetically alter your cells to extend your lifespan. But you can make sure the hypothalamus-fat cell circuitry gets a regular workout.

Stress is good for you

The hypothalamic signal to release energy from fat is part of the “fight or flight” pattern. That’s one of the body’s basic “preset” operational modes that helps you respond appropriately to life’s challenges.

Having your body respond to a “call to action” is a good thing. You wouldn’t want your life to be mellow and chill all the time. You’d never engage in fighting or flighting and your hypothalamus would never shake down your fat cells to get them to release energy. You need regular doses of stress.

One of the most reliable and healthy ways to expose yourself to stress is exercise. Choose a level of exercise intensity that slightly stretches your limits. Your fat cells will get used to accumulating and then releasing their energy stores. You’ll maintain a healthy balance between muscle tissue and fat tissue. And your brain cells will thank you.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.

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