Does your Body Create More Fat Cells?
First, to be technical, no cell in your body lasts forever. Cells have a certain lifespan and then they die and are replaced. So the question is really if a body has a fairly constant number of fat cells over a person's lifetime.
The answer is - it depends.
If a child is born and is fed a healthy diet throughout their childhood, then when they reach adulthood they have a "proper" number of fat cells to maintain their body shape. If they then continue to maintain a healthy diet going forward, those fat cells remain fairly constant.
If that same well-brought-up child reaches adulthood and then eats poorly, becoming obese, they might "fill up" all their existing fat cells. A given fat cell has a maximum size it reaches before it simply cannot be any bigger and work. So at that point the body would start making new fat cells out of necessity.
The "worst" situation involves when parents or guardian poorly feed a young child, causing that child to become obese. The young child's body starts making excess fat cells at that young age. That means when the child grows to adulthood they already have an excess of fat cells in their system. The fat cells never "go away." They are now considered a normal, natural part of this adult's body makeup. So that person now, for life, has a larger-than-average number of fat cells in their body's system, which impacts a number of different areas.
This study by the National Institute of Health verified that not only did these obese people have larger fat cells than non-obese people (because the cells were storing more fat within them) but that they actually had a higher overall count of fat cells. They had, in a measurable manner, more physical fat cells within their bodies.
"Since the age of onset of obesity appears to most clearly deliniate the hypercellular from the normocellular obese patients, the age of onset of the two patient groups has been examined in detail. Of the 78 obese patients, none with onset of obesity after 20 yr of age are hypercellular regardless of the method by which total cell number is estimated."
NIH Study on Fat Cells
If you were obese before age twenty, don't lose heart. You can still empty out those fat cells! You can still lose weight. Still, it's important to understand how your body works, so you can best take care of it. And it's also good for us to evangelize to parents of young children, so they are aware of how important it is to keep young kids at a healthy weight.
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