Bikram’s next claims are some of my all time favorites… And if theses claims were true EVERYBODY would be doing it! Bikram states that his style of yoga “reorganize the lipids (fatty acids) in the muscular structure, warm muscles burn fat more effectively” and “when we stretch, the fat has no room to sit so it redistributes to the bloodstream which we then use as energy.”
I have no idea which lipids Bikram is talking about because lipids are EVERYWHERE! So, I will break it down as best as I know how with education I have received thus far in my medical/yoga/osteopathic training…
Lipids are fatty acids that live in the bloodstream. They bind with proteins to create lipoproteins (cholesterol). There are 3 kinds of lipoproteins: (1) high-density (HDL) cholesterol, (2) low-density (LDL) cholesterol and (3) very low-density (VLDL) cholesterol. HDL refers to the “good cholesterol” because it keeps cholesterol from buiding up in our arteries. LDLs are the “bad” cholesterol because high LDL levels can increase our risk of heart attack and stroke. As most of us know high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) can have many causes including eating too much high-fat food, it can be inherited (familial hypercholesterolemia) or be from medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, alcoholism, kidney disease, liver disease and stress. Medications like oral birth control pills, steroids, and blood pressure medications can also elevate LDL cholesterol.
So, how do we lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol? We eat healthly and exercise. Bikram and Hot yoga are forms of exercise, so yes, they likely do lower lipids from the blood stream, NOT the musculature.
Lipids are also found in every cell membrane in every organ and organ system including our muscle cells. They are present in our skin, the surface of our eyes, in our saliva and in our gut bacteria. Lipids are critical for protection and insulation, regulating metabolism, reproduction, the stress response, brain function, nutrition and for communication between cells in the nervous system.
We also take fat in as food. We eat it, break it down and pass it into the blood stream so it can be burned as fuel or stored for later. These fats are known as triglycerides. They enter our bodies as triglycerides then are broken down by fat and muscle cells so they can be transported through our cell membranes into our cells. In addition to the fat that comes straight from our foods, our liver makes additional fats from carbohydrates and proteins that we consume to be stored in our fat cells (adipocytes) for later. There are 2 types of adipocytes: (1) white adipose tissue that is responsible for storing fat for use as energy and (2) brown adipose tissue that is used to create heat. In order for fat to be used as energy it must go through beta-oxidation, the kreb cycle (aka, citric acid cycle) and oxidative phosphorylation where the remainder of energy is extracted. This whole process occurs in our mitochondria.
Who really wants to talk about the kreb cycle… So, I will break it down for all of us layman. When we intake glucose (sugar) in form of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The amount of glucose varies depending on the amount of glucose in a carbohydrate, fat and protein. Once food is digested, the glucose absorbed enters the blood stream. Insulin is produced via the pancreas, binds to glucose and tells muscles and fat cells to absorb some of the excess glucose until the blood glucose is at a safe level. Glucose is either used right away or stored by muscle and fat cells for future use. Muscle cells have a limit to the amount of glucose they can store. If there is a lot of excess glucose most will be stored by your fat cells. Fat cells can only release glucose back into the bloodstream to be used for energy when there is no insulin floating in the bloodstream. Remember, insulin binds to glucose to tell your muscle and fat cells to absorb not release glucose. Over time, especially with to much excess glucose in the bloodstream, our muscle and fat cells can become less responsive to insulin leaving too much glucose in the bloodstream. The body will release more and more insulin so the periods time where there is no insulin in the bloodstream gets shorter and shorter, preventing fat cells from releasing glucose into the bloodstream. Depending on the time of your last meal of the day, sleeping may be the only time when insulin is not being produced.
Muscles are very efficient at using glucose, almost to efficient, in that they don’t need a lot to function optimally. If you exercise, as in any kind of exericse, you will burn more glucose and deplete the muscle’s glucose storage allowing the muscle cells to pick up more glucose from the bloodstream.
Lets talk about FAT! Fat, aka, adipose tissue, is distributed all throughout the body including under the skin as subcutaneous fat, packed around internal organs as visceral fat including the brain, between muscles, within bone marrow and in breast tissue. Adipose tissue has many important and vital functions for our bodies to perform healthfully. It provides padding and support for our organs, insulates us from the cold, produces hormones including leptin (inhibits hunger), estrogen (female and male sex hormone), cytokine (immunomodulating agents), TNFα (tumor necrosis factor alpha (is able to induce fever, programs cell death, inhibits cancer cells and viral replication and responds to sepsis)) and is a means of energy storage for excess food. Fat contributes to nerve development and function and is the body’s main energy reserve. Fat’s primary function is for energy storage.
When fat, in the form of adipose tissue, enters the bloodstream, it is called a fat embolism. Fat emboli cause clots in blood vessels. The fat emboli gets lodged in the capillaries of our organs including but not limited to the brain, kidneys, lungs, vessels of the heart and skin. Fat embolisms can cause a heart attack, pulmonary embolism and stroke. Majority of fat emboli are from trauma, fatty liver disease and burns. Thus, stretching does not redistribute fat, in form of adipose tissue, into the bloodstream.
In 2008, Spalding et al, published a study, Dynamics of fat cell turnover in humans, showed “that adipocyte number is a major determinant for the fat mass in adults. However, the number of fat cells stays constant in adulthood in lean and obese individuals, even after marked weight loss, indicating that the number of adipocytes is set during childhood and adolescence.” Our fat cells, aka adipocytes grow or shrink depending on weight loss and weight gain. The study goes on to report that adipocytes increase in number from infancy to our mid-twenties when we maintain the number to adipocytes. As adipocytes die, the body quickly replaces them “as if we’re programmed, in a way, to have this number of fat cells.” They also reported that the smaller fat cell size, a lesser amount of leptin is produced. This is the hormone that inhibits hunger by signaling our brains to stop eating. If we produce less leptin, we may innately eat more, growing our fat cells to their “happy size.”
Fat is healthy! The fat around our tummies, thighs and buttocks are healthy energy reserves. With regard to fat, our weight is directly related to both the number, which has been predetermined, and size of our fat cells. We gain weight when our fat cells grew by storing excess energy and we loose weight fat cells shrink from burning this excess energy. Your body shape and size are pre-determined at birth, so, LOVE THE SKIN YOU ARE IN because you were born with it!
(FYI: In the study conducted by Spalding et al., researchers are not sure if adipose tissue is replaced after liposuction).
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