Adults have between 30 and 40 billion fat cells. They swell and shrink like sponges depending upon the amount of fat inside them. They may become very small, but they never disappear.
Fat cells are as protected as brain cells during starvation. The explanation has to do with the distant past when famines were frequent. A ready-to-fill supply of fat cells ensured that energy stores could be replenished as soon as food became available. Therefore, to an extent, we are all programmed toward being fat. Storing fat is useful and lifesaving, which is why it is jealously guarded by the body.
Fat cells appear in early childhood but more develop later, particularly at puberty. In overweight people, the cells expand to hold more fat. Additional cells are found only when a person is at least 60% above ideal weight for his or her height and age. So, if you are heavy and always have been, you need to shrink the cells you have by healthy weight management.
Copyright 1996 and 2010 Lynn Borenius Brown