Breathe deeply, Australian research shows that it’s going to take a lot of exhaling to get rid of that excess fat.
Despite society’s obsession with weight loss, a study has revealed that, surprisingly, most health professionals don’t actually know what happens to fat when we “lose it”.
The research conducted by a team at UNSW Science in Sydney calculated exactly what happens to our fat when we shed kilos, and revealed that doctor's leading theories are wrong - we don’t convert our missing mass into heat or energy, we breathe it out.
Their results, published in the British Medical Journal, reveal that 10 kg of fat turns into 8.4 kg of carbon dioxide, which is exhaled when we breathe, and 1.6 kg of water, which we then excrete through our urine, tears, sweat and other bodily fluids.
“The correct answer is that most of the mass is breathed out as carbon dioxide. It goes into thin air,” said lead author of the paper Ruben Meerman, a physicist and TV presenter, in a press release.
Meerman first became interested in the biochemistry of weight loss when he dropped 15 kg - but when he asked doctors where this weight went, he was surprised by the fact no one could tell him.
After surveying 150 doctors, dieticians and personal trainers, he discovered that more than half thought that fat was converted into heat or energy as we break it down.
But, as a physicist, Meerman knew that this would violate the Law of Conservation of Mass.
To figure out the answer once and for all, Meerman partnered with Andrew Brown, head of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, and the team started calculating the biomolecular reactions that result in weight loss.
We put on weight when excess carbohydrates and proteins that we've eaten are converted into triglycerides (compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) and are then stored in lipid droplets inside fat cells. To lose weight, you need to break down those triglycerides to access their carbon.
The results showed that in order to completely breakdown 10kg of human fat, we need to inhale 29 kg of oxygen (and somewhere along the way, burn 94,000 calories). This reaction produces 28 kg of CO2 and 11 kg of water.
“Our calculations show that the lungs are the primary excretory organ for fat,”
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