Physiology of Adipose Tissue

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  • 0:02 Adipose Tissue
  • 0:59 Source of Energy
  • 1:50 Cushion
  • 2:41 Thermal Insulation
  • 3:11 Endocrine Function
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Adipose tissue is a loose connective tissue that contains fat-storing cells. Learn how this tissue provides you with a long-term source of energy and cushions and insulates your vital organs, as well as how it may even act as an endocrine organ, in this lesson.

Adipose Tissue

Body fat is a topic that all of us have thought about at one time or another. The amount and location of fat storage on your body has a lot to do with your body's size and shape. It can also be an important predictor of your future health because carrying excess fat has been linked to an increased risk of serious health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

With so much of our attention focused on the downside of body fat, it can be hard to remember that some fat actually does your body good. Fat is the common name for adipose tissue, which we can define as loose connective tissue that is composed of fat-storing cells and found under your skin and around your organs - without this tissue you could not survive. Follow along with this lesson to discover the physiology of adipose tissue, or, in other words, the function of fat.

Source of Energy

One of the most important functions of adipose tissue is the role it plays as a source of energy. Fats that you get from the foods you eat can either be burned immediately for fuel or stored in your adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is actually a highly efficient way to store energy. This is because each gram of fat provides nine calories.

This is more than twice as much of the energy carbohydrates and proteins give you, with each of those only providing four calories per gram. This ability to pack more calories per gram allows you to store a lot of energy without adding significantly to your body size. In this way, adipose tissue is like those vacuum seal storage bags that allow you to store a big pile of clothing in a compressed package.


Adipose tissue also acts as a cushion, protecting your vital internal organs from trauma and helping to anchor them in place. In fact, many of the major organs found in your abdomen are wrapped in visceral fat. This is an easy term to recall if you remember that the word 'viscera' is a scientific name for your internal organs, so visceral fat is literally 'fat surrounding your internal organs.'

While you wouldn't want to be without this cushioning layer of fat, too much visceral fat can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. This relationship to health risks has earned visceral fat the nickname 'dangerous fat.' And, because we know that this type of fat surrounds the organs of your abdomen, too much of it shows up as belly fat, which is why a big belly is considered unhealthy.

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