YES! You heard that right. When you lose weight or lose body fat after dieting and exercise, you do not lose the fat cells. They just shrink and is always ready to bloat up again and store fat, in future, if required!
Quite a bummer, right!? We know! But thats the sad reality!
Fat Cells, also known as adipocytes, stores fat inside them, in the form of triglycerides. (Triglyceride is nothing but 3 fatty acid molecules joined to a glycerol molecule)
The number of fat cells in the body varies from person to person and is dependent on many factors. Genetic features is one obvious factor. Apart from that, how obese/fat/overweight were you in your teens/as a child is yet another important factor that decides the number of fat cells in the body.
The number of fat cells in the body CAN increase upto your teenage. Hence, if you are over eating and is over weight in your young age, you have more fat cells in your body that someone who has been lean in his/her teenage.
The number of fat cells stops increasing after 20 years of age. These cells, however, may degenerate and die, like most other cells in our body. However, as some fat cells die, same number of new fat cells are created.
The body thus maintains nearly the same number of fat cells.
If fat cells do not die, then, what happens when you diet and exercise?
The fat cells shrinks and gives up the stored triglyceride molecule and that is how you lose weight. The cell how ever remains intact, in anticipation of storing fat inside them. This is why, the body always has a tendancy to gain back the fat, if your body fat cells have been storing fat for a long duration.
Fun fact – If you do liposuction or bariatric surgery to remove fat from the body, the body regenerates nearly the same number of fat cells back again!! However, this time, the fat cells are without the triglycerides and it is just a matter of time that they start swelling up again with fat.
In a nut shell – fat cell number can be only be increased but not decreased! and it remains nearly the same after teenage