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5 Things You Need to Know About Fat Cell Theory

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated July 18, 2017

Fat Cells Galore

Fat cell theory has been discussed within medical fields for more than 30 years. The idea behind the theory is that each body is programmed to have a basic set number of fat cells. The theory states that the creation of new fat cells is far easier than losing old ones, a fact that plays an important role in adult weight loss.

Setting the Stage

According to fat cell theory, the set point for your body's number of fat cells was determined during puberty. Fat cells grow quickly in children, but as we become adults, the body determines the current number of fat cells as our adult set point and significantly slows the creation new ones. Because, according to the theory, the number of fat cells present in your body during puberty will determine the ease or difficulty of weight loss as an adult, adolescent nutrition becomes even more important. While it is not impossible for an overweight child to lose weight as an adult, it will be far more difficult.

When Fat Cells Multiply

In the early years of the fat cell theory, scientists were certain that the body could not gain more fat cells after puberty; however, in recent years the theory has changed. Studies have shown that individuals who are sedentary and eat poor diets actually gain fat cells over time, making weight loss even more difficult.

Magnets for Fat

Dieting can be frustrating for those with a higher fat cell set point, as the fat cells in your body are programmed to fill. During a diet, your body's fat cells shrink, that is how we lose weight. However, as soon as you return to your regular eating habits, like magnets, the fat cells in your body begin to attract fat and soon you are back at your weight set point. While dieting can be a great tool for people who were a healthy weight in their adolescence, those who were chubby will only find frustration and defeat in short-term yo-yo diets.

Lose the Fat

The good news is that long term studies on fat cell theory have proven that the body can in fact lose fat cells; however, the process isn't easy and can take years. While fat cells shrink during a few weeks or months of traditional dieting, if you change your lifestyle habits for good, your body will begin to slowly eliminate fat cells as they become unnecessary. That is, if there is no excess fat to store in a cell for a sufficient amount of time, the body will let it go. While long-term weight loss and elimination of excess fat cells will take years and permanent changes, you can say goodbye to yo-yo dieting.

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