What Are Fat Cells?

Everyone has fat cells, but exactly what are fat cells and how do they function in the body?

what are fat cells

Fat cells (also called adipocytes or lipocytes) are the cells that make up body fat (adipose tissue). The main role of these cells is to store fat so that it can be used by the body for energy.

When you consume more calories than your body needs, regardless of if the calories come from fats, carbohydrates or proteins, the extra calories are stored as fat in fat cells.

When your body needs to use stored fat for energy, fat is released from the cells and the cells shrink. This is why you look leaner when you lose body fat - because your fat cells are now smaller.

The way to trigger the release of fat from fat cells is to consume fewer calories than you burn, which creates an energy deficit in the body. The optimum way to create this energy deficit is by cutting back on calories and increasing physical activity.

It was once believed that the number of fat cells a person had could not increase in adulthood and that only the size of the cells could increase (or decrease). It's now known that fat cells can increase both in number and size during adulthood.

What happens is that when a fat cell expands to its maximum size it can divide, producing an increase in the actual number of cells. A person becomes overweight when their fat cells increase in number, in size, or in both.

Some people are genetically predisposed to have more fat cells than others, and women have more fat cells than men.

An overweight person's number of fat cells depends on how overweight the person is, but it can be over 10 times more than a person with normal body composition. An overweight person's fat cells can also be up to three times larger than the fat cells of a healthy person with normal body composition.

The bottom line is that the more fat cells you have and the larger those cells are, the more difficult it will be for you to lose body fat.

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