Episode 85 |

Breaking Down the Science of Weight Management: Sylvia Tara

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This Week’s Guest:

Sylvia Tara is the author of The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You. In other words, she’s an expert in the topics of fat, digestion, weight management and more. She discusses all of these topics in this episode, diving into how a certain amount of fat is a good thing and offering some tips on understanding (and losing) weight.


Sylvia holds a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California San Diego, so she has deep insight into the chemistry and science behind weight and fat. In addition, she was a consultant with McKinsey & Company (which is a global management consulting firm), and has worked at the world’s largest biotechnology companies.


Find Out More About Sylvia Here:

@SylviaTaraPhD on Twitter
@sylviataraphd on Facebook


In This Episode:

  • [01:24] – Fat actually functions like an endocrine organ, Sylvia reveals. It’s also linked to our immune and reproductive systems.
  • [02:42] – What are the different kinds of fat, and what do we need to know about them?
  • [05:08] – Sylvia talks about the relation between fat and stem cells.
  • {06:17] – Why do some of us end up with love handles, and why are they so hard to get rid of?
  • [09:30] – Sylvia discusses the role of genetics in weight gain and the ease or difficulty of weight loss.
  • [13:03] – Stephan talks about the role of epigenetics in weight. Sylvia responds and expands on what Stephan has mentioned.
  • [15:06] – Sylvia elaborates on the role of viruses in fatness, which has been well-known in chickens and mice for several decades.
  • [19:06] – Bacteria also has a role in our weight, Sylvia explains. She talks about a study done on mice to illustrate her point. She and Stephan then talk about another study done on mice, bacteria, and weight.
  • [23:46] – Sylvia discusses getting your DNA tested, specifically mentioning 23andMe. Stephan then talks about Simplified Genetics and what it can offer.
  • [26:59] – Is there any validity to eating for your blood type?
  • [27:51] – Sylvia talks about fecal transplants and how it might function in terms of obesity and weight. She then shares her thoughts on intermittent fasting.
  • [31:33] – Liposuction can be problematic rather than helpful, Sylvia explains. She then shares the story of a patient with lipodystrophy to illustrate the importance of having some fat.
  • [35:26] – Fat can actually be protective as we age. In discussing the topic, Sylvia talks about the obesity paradox.
  • [36:42] – Sylvia describes intermittent fasting in more detail.
  • [38:14] – What are Sylvia’s thoughts on ketogenic diets?
  • [40:40] – Sylvia actually believes that you need to have some cheat days once in a while.
  • [43:41] – Sylvia shares her thoughts on sugar and whether it’s necessary to completely cut it from your diet.
  • [46:50] – What are Sylvie’s thoughts on gluten?
  • [49:07] – Sylvia counts calories as a useful guide for herself, but explains that there are some diets that don’t require it.
  • [50:17] – For a while, Sylvia tried the diet in which you can eat anything that fits into your macros, but it took too much time to fit her lifestyle.
  • [52:33] – What’s the difference between BMI and body fat percentage? In her answer, Sylvia explains why using your BMI can be dangerous and misleading.
  • [53:35] – What are Sylvia’s thoughts on statin drugs?
  • [54:38]- Sylvia shares her final advice: don’t despair if you’ve been having struggles with stubborn fat.


Get Optimized!

  1. Reframe my thinking on fat. It isn’t just fat; it also functions like an endocrine organ, releasing hormones and is positively linked to brain size and several of my body’s systems.
  2. If my body fat percentage is too high, focus on losing just 7% of my body fat. This can improve my insulin sensitivity by 57%.
  3. Get tested for AD-36 if I have concerns about my weight. This virus can make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.


Links and Resources:


The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You
Adipose tissue
Pluripotent cells
Thrifty genotype
FTO gene
Simplified Genetics
Intermittent fasting
Growth hormone
The obesity paradox
Dave Asprey on the Optimized Geek
Michael Dansinger at Tufts Medical Center
Dichotomous thinking


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