Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

Last month I wrote an article called “How to get lean, in a nutshell”. We discussed that we have two prominent enzymes acting on our energy-storing cells (the muscle, liver and fat cells). These enzymes are called lipase lipoprotein (LPL) and hormone-sensitive lipoprotein (HSL). In the proverbial nutshell, LPL acts to pull more fat into the cells. So you’d better hope you have more LPL on your muscle and liver cells, than on your fat cells! HSL works to break down the fat in our fat cells. It stands to reason then, that you’d want as much HSL on the fat cells as possible.

I also said that insulin and glycerol production – both side-effects of eating a carb-heavy diet, will lead to more LPL and triglyceride-building activity on the fat cells.  This makes you store more body fat and will suppress HSL activity on the fat cells. This reduces your chances of getting rid of your stored body fat. So, now that we’ve got that technical stuff out of the way, let’s look at another way our body fat can be influenced.

The Estrogen LPL love affair

Estrogen is a hormone we all have though in greater quantities in women. It suppresses LPL activity on the fat cells.This means that the more estrogen there is available (within limits), the less fat will be pulled into the fat cells. And therefore the less fat you’ll accumulate over time. If estrogen levels are low, LPL on the fat cells will have a field day, causing more fat to be stored. In the case of women, this brings into question the side-effects that synthetic estrogen may have on causing fatness, due to suppression of natural estrogen levels. If you find you’re picking up weight through using hormone-based contraceptives, this may be the reason.

Men and women – storage wars

Why is that men and women store fat in different areas of the body? It’s down to LPL distribution and the influence of sex hormones. In men, LPL activity occurs more in the fat cells of the gut and as men get older, they produce less testosterone. Testosterone, like estrogen, suppresses LPL activity on the fat cells – specifically the abdominal fat cells. In women LPL occurs more in the fat cells below the waist. But after menopause, LPL activity in abdominal tissue catches up to that of men. This is why women tend to pick up weight around the middle at this time (the joys of being female!).

So – we need to eat a diet high in good quality fats, moderate amounts of protein and lower levels of carbs. But we also need to ensure that we’re producing enough natural hormones in appropriate levels. All this, to keep both LPL and HSL on their best possible behaviour…

Whoever said getting lean was simple!