60-Second Science

Cell Number Is Future Fat Fight Front

Your fat cell number stays constant, but the individual fat cells die and are replaced. Stopping that process could be a new front in the fat fight. Karen Hopkin reports.

Podcast Transcript: Losing weight is no walk in the park. (Although a walk in the park wouldn’t hurt). Seems no matter what diet you try, those stubborn love handles just won’t go away. Part of the problem is that the bulk of your bulk is stored inside fat cells. And the number of fat cells you have is set before you reach adulthood. So if you chunked up as a child, that battalion of fat cells is with you for life. It’s enough to make you want to bury your face in a tray of brownies, I know.  But hold off. Because researchers from Stockholm think they’ve found a loophole.
The Swedish scientists confirmed that even after massive weight loss, the number of fat cells an adult has remains the same. But they discovered that individual fat cells don’t last a lifetime. Each year, about 10 percent of them die off. Of course new fat cells take their place, findings that appear in the online issue of the journal Nature. While that might not seem like a major victory, if scientists can figure out how to stop the replacement fat cells from being born, that would tip the scales in your favor. So you might just be able to have your cake and eat it too, and still fit into your pants.

—Karen Hopkin

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