United States: The latest studies, which are going to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Venice, Italy (May 12-15), show that it is possible to foresee if someone is going to get obese on the size of their fat cells. 

More about the study  

PeopleStudy big fat cells usually shed the weight over time, while the ones with the small fat cells are the ones who gain the weight, the Swedish study found. 

Studyize and number of fat cells are the factors that influence the fat mass – that is, the amount of body fat an individual has, scitechdaily.com reported. 

Nevertheless, the influence of these effects on long-term changes in body weight is still a mystery, as explained by the researchers. 

Detailed analysis of the finding 

To dig deeper into this, Professor Peter Arner, from the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, Dr Daniel P Andersson, from the Department of Endocrinology, Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Stockholm, and their colleagues have measured the cell volume (FCV, the size of the fat cells) and the fat cell number (FCN) in the abdominal fat of 260 subjects (30 percent were men) with an average age of 44 years and an average BMI of 32 kg/m². 

Fat Cell Size Predicts Future Weight Gain, Study Reveals. Credit | Dreamstime
Fat Cell Size Predicts Future Weight Gain, Study Reveals. Credit | Dreamstime

After an average period of 15 years later, the participants were seen again and body weight (BW), Body Mass Index (BMI), and body fat (BF) were measured. Moreover, the individuals undergoing bariatric surgery or taking anti-obesity drugs were eliminated from the analysis of the new study. 

At first, the volume and number of initial fat cells were significantly related to changes in all of the three measures – BW, BMI, and BF over the given period. 

The combination of a large number of fat cells and their size was linked to the decrease in the three measures while having few, but the small fat cells, resulted in the increase in weight, BMI, and body fat. This was the case even if the people were not obese but living with obesity. 

Having a high number of fat cells that were large was associated with decreases in the three measures, while having few, but small, fat cells correlated with increases in weight, BMI, and body fat. This was the case whether or not individuals were living with obesity. 

Impact of Fat Cell Size 

The linkage between FCV and changes in BW, BMI, and BF were considered important to consider when when initial age, physical activity, length of follow-up, and sex were taken into account. It can also be said like that large cells are associated to future weight loss and small cells to future weight gain. 

According to Professor Arner, “We can only speculate as to why the size of a person’s fat cells seems to predict their future weight. Body weight decreases when energy expenditure exceeds intake, and the body burns off fat to compensate. Our results suggest that the loss of large fat cells makes more of an impact on weight than the loss of small ones,” as scitechdaily.com reported. 

“It is a bit like having a room filled to the top by a few large balloons or many small ones. It is easier to make empty space in the room by letting out air from the big rather than the small balloons,” Arner continued. 

Therefore while explaining, why having small cells might be considered of having easiness to gain weight, Professor Arner continued, “Conversely it is easier to fill up the room if many small balloons increase their volume a bit, as compared with having few large balloons and filling them up just a bit.” 


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