The slim, the fat, and the obese: guess who lives the longest?


In a modern society that is increasingly older and “heavier,” it is understandable that the majority favors a slimmer body that helps to sail smoothly into the dusk of life. Given the association between obesity and many metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, there are stern criticisms over such a thought of “good fat”. Ironically, a phenomenon called “obesity paradox”, that is, the overweight population purportedly enjoys the lowest all-cause mortality, and baffles open-minded clinicians and scientists. Lipids are essential to all life forms. Fat, in particular, triacylglycerol, also exists in different forms and in different locations in the human body, making any simple statement that vilifies all fat invalid. Whether the phenomenon of obesity paradox, indeed, has its root in a hitherto unrealized pro-survival function of fat deserves a serious look. Indeed, a recent publication using yeast as the model showed that elevation in the cellular storage of triacylglycerol extends lifespan in an energy expenditure independent fashion. In stark contrast, lean cells devoid of triacylglycerol biosynthetic capability die upon entering the senescence phase. Together, a new cytoprotective function of fat emerges. This mini-review aims to discuss potential mechanisms for the observed lifespan preservation function of triacylglycerol.

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Correspondence to Min-Hao Kuo.

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X. Li and W. Handee equal contribution.

Communicated by M. Kupiec.

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Li, X., Handee, W. & Kuo, M. The slim, the fat, and the obese: guess who lives the longest?. Curr Genet 63, 43–49 (2017).

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  • Aging
  • Lifespan regulation
  • Triacylglycerol
  • Obesity paradox
  • Free radicals