Using ice cream, candy bars and energy drinks to help volunteers gain weight, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered the mechanisms of how body fat grows. Increased abdominal fat seems to heighten risk for metabolic disease, while fat expansion in the lower body -- as in the thighs -- seems to lower the risk. The findings, appearing in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), help explain why.

"The cellular mechanisms are different," explains Michael Jensen, M.D., Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and lead author of the study. "The accumulation of abdominal fat happens largely by individual cells expanding in size, while with fat gain in the femoral or lower body, it's the number of fat cells that increases. So, different mechanism, different impact."

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