I wanted to follow-up on my ‘new weapons in the fight on fat cells’ blog from the other day. It turns out that very little about these cells is known, but I was able to glean some information out of a few articles which I’ll share. Fat cells are among the largest and longest-living cells in the body, and they can expand up to AT LEAST 64x their original size, their upper limit is unknown. A lean adult has about 40 billion fat cells, an obese adult can have 120 billion. It was once thought that you have all the fat cells you’ll ever have by age 20, that they just grew and shrunk as people gained and lost weight. Now, it is known that about 10 % of your fat cells die off and are replaced each year. It is not known is what regulates that process. It appears it’s better (healthier) to have a larger number of small fat cells than fewer, fatter ones. Subcutaneous fat cells, the ones you notice around the thighs, arms, and hips, may be unsightly, but they are relatively benign. Their job is to pull excess fat out of the bloodstream, package and store it, then release it when the body needs it for energy. In other words, fat cells and your liver keep you alive between meals or when you skip a meal, a pretty good design, when they are working properly. But, when they don’t work properly, they don’t store and release fat effectively, and harmful fat called visceral fat accumulates in organs like the heart and liver. This visceral fat causes fats in the blood to rise, and raises the risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes type 2, stroke, and other metabolic issues. The million dollar question: why some fat cells stop working, why some proliferate, and why some just balloon, isn’t understood. Fat cells are busy little factories, releasing over 100 chemicals that send signals all over the body, helping to regulate growth, puberty, healing, disease-fighting, and aging. Some are well-known: estrogen affects many organs, and promotes fat storage, leptin affects appetite (low levels signal the brain to want more food), and adiponectine affects metabolism. In the August issue of Nature Medicine, adiponectine (ADI) increases insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and liver tissues. In other words, ADI increases the ability of the body to burn fat for energy (this occurs in the muscles). When fat cells are working properly, the body is able to maintain weight as long as calories in = calories out. Dieting or food restriction can cause problems with this type of regulation in the long-term, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose. Whomever comes up with a solution is going to make a lot of people happy.

PS: If any of you received an email from you asking you to be my friend, I’m sorry-I didn’t send it. It somehow got into my email address book. Those things freak me out. JB

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.