Fat Cells Die?

Gina Kolata, whose book Rethinking Thin prompted a series of posts on obesity earlier, had a recent article, Study Finds That Fat Cells Die and Are Replaced. Every year ten percent of your fat cells die; every year they are replaced. This research reinforces the emerging conclusion that “losing or gaining weight affects only the amount of fat stored in the cells, not the number of cells.” It also leads to more questions:

“What determines how many fat cells are in a person’s body? When is that number determined? Is there a way to intervene so people end up with fewer fat cells when they reach adulthood? And could obesity be treated by making fat cells die faster than they are born?”

As the lead researcher Kirsty Spalding puts it, “The million-dollar question now is, What regulates this process? And where can we intervene?”

Not all scientists are so sanguine. Lester Salans, an old-timer in this area, answers, “I suspect that the body’s regulation of weight is so complex that if you intervene at this site, something else is going to happen to neutralize this intervention.”

And the real interventions, the ones that happen everyday? High-calorie processed foods; fast food restaurants on street corners; an increasingly sedentary lifestyle? Well, there’s a reason I stuck that image of David up.

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