Fat Cells Do Not Live Forever

New research indicates that the number of fat cells we develop as kids and teenagers determines how many fat cells we’ll have for the rest of our lives.
So says a study published in the May 4 online journal Nature. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, with help from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, approached their subject from several angles, including using carbon dating to pinpoint the age of fat cells they’d collected from patients who’d had liposuction or other surgeries. Turns out you can tell a fat cell’s age by analyzing its carbon content, which correlates to the amount of carbon in the world atmosphere when the cell was created. (For more on the study, read this editorial, also from Nature.)

They found that the number of fat cells — called adipocytes — is set during childhood and adolescence for both lean and obese people.

They also learned that fat cell turnover is fairly high, with close to 10 percent of them dying and being replaced a year. Scientists already suspected that the overall number of fat cells remains constant throughout adulthood and that that number appears not to be influenced by how much you eat or exercise.

When you lose weight, your fat cells shrink but don’t go away; when you gain, they fill up with fat and expand. Before this research, they weren’t sure how long fat cells live, or how often they die and are replaced. Understanding fat cell “turnover” could possibly lead to treatments for obesity that block fat-cell regeneration.

The researchers suggest that, down the road, their newfound knowledge might be useful in developing therapies that would reduce the number of fat cells produced. For now, though, controlling weight is still all about watching what you eat and getting plenty of physical activity.

For a child and a teenager the saying is true “a moment on your lips, forever on your hips” was true. Overeating and obesity during childhood can cause a lifetime problem.

Fasting and Fat Cells
Fat is fuel that the body uses in the fasting state or where caloric demand is more that that supplied by food. The fat cells do not get dissolved but drained of fat. So if you return to the same diet that caused the weight gain the fat will return. The solution is more exercise, less high calorie foods, and more salads. Fasting is a great way to get quick results but it should be part of a lifestyle that will last till the day you die healthy.

Fat Cells Overview

Adipocytes, also known as lipocytes and fat cells, are the cells that primarily compose adipose tissue, specialized in storing energy as fat.  There are two types of adipose tissue, white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT), which are also known as white fat and brown fat, respectively, and comprise two types of fat cells.

An average adult has 30 billion fat cells with a weight of 30 lbs or 13.5 kg. If excess weight is gained as an adult, fat cells increase in size about fourfold before dividing and increasing the absolute number of fat cells present.[1] After marked weight loss, the number of fat cells does not decrease (the cells contain less fat). Fat cells swell or shrink but remain constant in number. However, the number of fat cells may increase once existing fat cells are sufficiently full.

Approximately 10% of fat cells are renewed annually at all adult ages and levels of body mass index.

Posted on by Tom Coghill

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3 Responses to Fat Cells Do Not Live Forever

  1. Emerogork says:

    If “Fat Cells Do Not Live Forever” and they increase in childhood and adolescence, then what keeps them at their number? The article claims that 10% get replaced in a year. What tracks how many get created? This article suggests that I should automatically be losing weight as cells die off. Will I eventually end up as one single large fat cell? (-:

  2. Azeron says:

    The article does not suggest that you should be losing weight as cells dies off. It states that ten percent die off and are replaced annually. It also states that the (total) “number of fat cells does NOT decrease.” They may shrink but the total number is never reduced. “However, the number of fat cells MAY increase once existing fat cells are sufficiently full.”

  3. mimolette says:

    Does it actually matter whether the same amount of fat is stored in one big fat cell or ten smaller ones? like on cell signaling, hormone regulation?