physiology of obesity

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Body fat mass is tightly regulated. Despite variations in diet and energy expenditure, on average the fat mass varies by +/- 1% over a period of years. This observation suggests that a powerful long-term negative feedback process regulates body fat mass.

The hypothalamus seems to be the main control centre for the regulation of energy intake and expenditure: damage to the hypothalamus may cause obesity and, conversely, appropriate stimulation reduces eating and increases energy expenditure.

An important unsolved question is how does the body signal to the hypothalamus how much body fat there is. Recent research on the ob mouse has led to interest in hormone production by adipose tissue.

Last reviewed 06/2021

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