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5 Things About: Fat Cells

When it comes to fighting the battle of the bulge, it is best to know your enemy as specifically as you can. So let's get as specific as we can, and talk about fat cells.

Here are five things I think you should know about fat cells.


  1. A person with a healthy weight has 10 to 20 billion fat cells. Newborns begin life with 10 billion, and as babies mature into adults, the number of fat cells increases naturally over time, just like other cells.
  2. A person who is considered obese, with a BMI over 30, can have up to 100 billion fat cells.
  3. The number of fat cells in your body can increase at any time if you overeat for a long enough period of time, consistently feeding your body more calories than it burns. When a fat cell reaches its maximum size, it calls out to fat precursor cells and tells them to turn into full-fledged fat cells. Generally, you can gain 30 pounds over a healthy weight without creating an excessive amount of fat cells.

To see how fat cells react when you lose weight, just read more.

  1. Fat cells are not inert. They actually secrete hormones which influence the body in beneficial or detrimental ways, depending on the size of the fat cell. Small fat cells make a hormone that helps maintain insulin sensitivity in the liver and other muscles, which in turn helps to ward off type 2 diabetes. In obese people with large fat cells, the production of this beneficial hormone shuts down, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  2. When you go into a calorie deficit, by eating fewer calories than your body requires, your cells release fat to be used as fuel. While the fat cells shrink, the number of fat cells remains the same. Once your body has made fat cells, you have those fat cells forever. While that sounds dire, all hope for creating and maintaining a healthy weight is not lost. Once fat cells shrink, they start secreting the beneficial hormone once again, which is great for your health.

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