The Science of Fat Cells

With statistics showing that almost two-thirds of the adult U.S. population is overweight or obese, excess body fat is a concern for Americans. Many Americans seek to eliminate it, whether it be out of concern for the related health risks such as heart disease and diabetes, or for pure aesthetic reasons. But in order to better address the problem, it’s important to have a better understand of just what fat cells are, and what happens when a person gains weight.

What is fat and how does it develop?

Fat, known to doctors as adipose tissue, is found all throughout the human body. Most of it resides under your skin (also known as subcutaneous fat), and there’s a small amount in your muscles. Adult men tend to carry more body fat in the chest and abdomen, while women carry it in the breasts, hips, and waist. The fat cells in these areas take form during puberty, but puberty does not cause more fat cells to form – they simply get bigger.

There are two types of fat: white fat, which is important to insulating vital organs and cushioning muscles, and brown fat, which is essential to generating body heat. However, most adult humans have little to no brown fat, so white fat is the focus when it comes to weight issues. To simplify, think of white fat cells as tiny plastic bags. In contrast to complex cells like blood cells, white fat cells are comprised of a small nucleus and one large fat droplet that makes up about 85 percent of the total volume of the cell.

Fat enters the body through food, along with many other essential things the human body needs to function. As food passes through your stomach and intestines, it goes through a complex process of being broken down and rebuilt, as the fat molecules are too big to cross cell membranes. First, it gets mixed with bile from the gallbladder in a process called emulsification. This breaks the large fat droplets down into smaller droplets called micelles. Then, lipases from the pancreas break down the micelles into glycerol and fatty acids, which are then absorbed into the intestine lining. There the parts are reassembled into chylomicrons, and are released into the lymphatic system, which eventually joins back up with the blood stream. Then, enzymes called lipoproteins break the fats down into fatty acids, which are then absorbed into fat cells, muscle cells, and the liver.

During the times of the day when you’re not eating, your body is not absorbing food. However, it is still using energy. This energy comes from internal stores of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The main source of energy is glucose, which some cells in your body can only get energy from. Through a process called glycogenolysis, your body will break down complex carbohydrates and fats directly into energy.

Losing Weight and Losing Fat

To simplify things, your weight is determined by the rate at which you store energy from the food you eat, and the rate at which you use that energy. If you’re using more energy than you take in, your body will have to dip into its stores of fat cells to get the energy needed to go about your day. Remember – as your body breaks down fat, the number of fat cells in your body remains the same. Each fat cell just gets smaller as the fat stored in it is broken down into energy.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and about 2000 calories a day should be sufficient to maintaining a healthy weight and keeping fat cells from growing too large. However, the human body is a complex machine, and sometimes a little excess fat is unavoidable. If you’d like to get rid of it for cosmetic reasons, body sculpting procedures such as truSculpt work to heat the fat cells from the outside in, and break them down in that way. If this sounds like what you need, schedule your appointment today by calling 1-888-VEINCARE or use our convenient online appointment request form.

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