The regulation of total body fat: Lessons learned from lipectomy studies

Mary Margaret Mauer, Ruth B.S. Harris, Timothy J. Bartness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Surgical removal of body fat (partial lipectomy) is a means of directly reducing fat such that metabolic and behavioral responses can be readily attributed to the lipid deficit. If total body fat is regulated, then lipectomy should trigger compensatory increases in nonexcised white adipose tissue (WAT) mass and/or regrowth at excision sites. Many species, including laboratory rats and mice, show lipectomy-induced compensatory recovery of body fat. Those animals exhibiting naturally occurring annual adiposity cycles, such as ground squirrels and hamsters, do so most impressively reaching seasonally appropriate body fat levels indistinguishable from controls. Reparation of the lipid deficit occurs without an increase in food intake, and generally through enlargement of non-excised WAT mass, rather than regrowth of excised WAT. A body fat regulatory system involving humoral and sensory neural inputs to the brain as well as sympathetic neural outputs from brain to adipose tissue is presented. Collectively, the lipectomy model appears useful for testing mechanisms controlling adiposity, or individual depot growth, and offers insight into how lipid stores fluctuate naturally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-28
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenal medulla
  • Adrenoceptors
  • Brain lesions
  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Epinephrine
  • Food intake
  • Ground squirrels
  • Hamsters
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Lipogenesis
  • Lipolysis
  • Mice
  • Norepinephrine
  • Obesity
  • Parabiosis
  • Photoperiod
  • Proliferation
  • Rats
  • Sensory nerves
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • White adipose tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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