Collateral fattening in body composition autoregulation: its determinants and significance for obesity predisposition

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 May;72(5):657-664. doi: 10.1038/s41430-018-0138-6. Epub 2018 Mar 20.


Collateral fattening refers to the process whereby excess fat is deposited as a result of the body's attempt to counter a deficit in lean mass through overeating. Its demonstration and significance to weight regulation and obesity can be traced to work on energy budget strategies in growing mammals and birds, and to men recovering from experimental starvation. The cardinal features of collateral fattening rests upon (i) the existence of a feedback system between lean tissue and appetite control, with lean tissue deficit driving hyperphagia, and (ii) upon the occurrence of a temporal desynchronization in the recovery of body composition, with complete recovery of fat mass preceeding that of lean mass. Under these conditions, persistent hyperphagia driven by the need to complete the recovery of lean tissue will result in the excess fat deposition (hence collateral fattening) and fat overshooting. After reviewing the main lines of evidence for the phenomenon of collateral fattening in body composition autoregulation, this article discusses the causes and determinants of the desynchronization in fat and lean tissue recovery leading to collateral fattening and fat overshooting, and points to their significance in the mechanisms by which dieting, developmental programming and sedentariness predispose to obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adiposity*
  • Aging
  • Appetite
  • Appetite Regulation*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Diet
  • Disease Susceptibility / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Hyperphagia / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Sedentary Behavior