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Overweight: Why some people find it harder to lose weight than others

The risk of cardiovascular diseases is therefore not primarily determined by an increased BMI (body mass index), but by the way in which the fat is distributed in the body. In a 2015 study, doctors at the Mayo Clinik in Rochester, USA, evaluated data from over 15,000 men and women. According to this, the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases is not related to the BMI, but to the so-called waist-to-hip ratio. For example, a 50-year-old with a BMI of 22 and a "beer belly" has a more than twice as high risk of dying within the next ten years than a person of the same age with a BMI of 33 and little belly fat.

The capacities of the subcutaneous fatty tissue vary greatly from person to person. "Some people who weigh 150 kilograms stay healthy because all the fat is deposited in the subcutaneous tissue; others with much less body weight, but with belly fat, develop diabetes or develop cardiovascular problems," says Blüher. According to the Leipzig researcher, the size of the storage capacity of the subcutaneous fatty tissue is determined by a person's genetic makeup.

3. Is it true that fat cells will never go away completely?

A study with healthy adults at the Mayo Clinik a few years ago showed what everyone already knows: those who eat too much gain weight. For eight weeks, the 28 women and men were asked to deliberately go over the top with every meal, and they were also provided with king-size chocolate bars of 500 kilocalories each. After the two-month feeding phase, the participants had an average of 3.8 kilograms more fat on their ribs. Not only had the fat cells grown larger, new ones had also formed. Michael Jensen and his colleagues counted at least 2.6 billion new fat cells in the body's storage tissue.

Adipose tissue is one of the parts of the body that is very slow to renew itself. Every year only about every tenth fat cell dies and is replaced by a new one. But do you ever get rid of some of them? According to Matthias Blüher, the question has not yet been fully clarified, but once the number of fat cells has been created, it will remain relatively constant. "When you go on a diet, the fat cells are definitely smaller - which is also a benefit, because it releases fewer inflammatory substances."

4. What role do genes play, and what role does diet play?

The Robert Koch Institute puts the matter very matter-of-factly: "If the body weight for a given height exceeds the normal weight, one speaks of overweight." But why is the weight too high? Even if for some people the matter is completely clear ("eat less, move more, more self-control, it is your own fault"), science is still not so sure - lifestyle, genes and environmental factors play a role.

For example, it is genetically determined how much storage capacity a person's subcutaneous fat has and how much he risks accumulating dangerous abdominal fat if there are too many calories. According to the so-called set-point hypothesis, each body tries individually to maintain a genetically determined weight state through energy intake and consumption. If there is a temporary imbalance due to diet, psychological influences or changes in physical activity, the body can compensate for the fluctuations. However, if the influences remain changed in the long term, the set point will also shift.