I was doing some research this morning on fat, fat cells and what exactly happens to fat cells when we lose weight. I was pondering some questions, some of which I know from school, but wanted more info, such as:

  • What exactly are fat cells?
  • Why do we have fat cells?
  • How many fat cells do we have?
  • Do we have a set amount of fat cells?
  • Do we gain fat cells?
  • Can we get rid of fat cells? (That was the big one for me)

The simplest answers to all of these question? Basically, fat cells store energy for our body when food is scarce. A healthy adult has between 35-30 billion fat cells. An overweight person has approximately 75 billion fat cells. In extreme cases of severe obesity, the numbers can go as high as 250-300 billion fat cells.

As it turns out, we DO NOT have a set amount. Yes, WE CAN GAIN fat cells…however…(and this is the depressing part) we NEVER LOSE fat cells. As it turns out, they shrink, but, once we gain a fat cell, we’re stuck with it…it never goes away. You see, fat cells die at a rate of about 10% per year, however, they are replaced by an equal number of fat cells, so the number remains constant. If we gain weight, and fat cells are too full, the body creates more. When we lose weight, they shrink, and tell the body they’re empty, which creates cravings for food, causing us to eat and fill them back up. which is why it’s so hard to lose weight and keep it off, once we’ve put it on!

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This was a VERY brief explanation. If you’d like a more in depth explanation, and the exact process of fat burning in the body (including the hormones, enzymes and chemicals involved), see the great article by Tom Venuto, a natural bodybuilder, certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a certified personal trainer (CPT).

What Really Happens When Body Fat is Burned?

Follow this link for the main article: The Incredible Shrinking Fat Cell: What Really Happens When Body Fat is Burned?

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