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The Secret Life of Fat Cells

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Weight Loss related image Photo: Getty Images

If you’re fighting the battle of the bulge—or bulges, as the case may be—it’s helpful to know something about fat cells and how they behave. Let’s take a look.

They’re with You from the Start

You have your fat cells at birth, and the way they’re distributed throughout your body is genetically determined. Know how some women sport saddlebags while others have chubby arms or a muffin top, even if they’re not overweight? That’s genetics in action.

There are also general differences in how fat cells are distributed in men’s bodies and women’s. Most men carry the majority of their fat cells around their torsos and some in their buttocks. In women’s bodies, fat cells occur mainly in the breasts, around the waist and across the hips and buttocks.

They’re Not All Bad

We humans actually need some fat in our bodies. Fat cells store energy we burn during our daily lives. Within the deepest layers of skin, where most fat is found, it helps insulate us. Some fat cushions our internal organs, such as our kidneys. Fat cells also produce certain hormones.

Are you glad you have breasts? Thank your fat cells. Fatty tissue makes up a large portion of the volume in your breasts and provides a safe framework for milk producing structures.

Too much fat, of course, is not a good thing. Obesity puts a strain on the body and its systems and contributes to type 2 diabetes, stroke and other life threatening conditions. Visceral fat, or fat that’s located within the abdominal cavity instead of under the skin, threatens your health most of all.

Fat Cells are Loyal

You might think that when you gain and lose weight, you gain and lose fat cells. For the most part, that’s not true. Those fat cells that come into the world with you simply expand or shrink as your weight changes.

What is true is that without cosmetic intervention, like liposuction, you can’t make your fat cells disappear. That’s why there’s really no such thing as “spot reducing.” Sit ups are a great way to tone abdominal muscles, for instance, but they will not have any effect on fat cells.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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