Once we hit puberty, we have the total number of fat cells we’ll likely ever have. This limit on fat cell number means that if you have some fat cells removed, say with liposuction, and overeat and don’t exercise, you may see fat appear elsewhere on your body.
Liposuction does not stop you from putting on weight and is not a weight-loss tool. Liposuction is a very effective body-sculpting method, but it does rely on you maintaining a healthy weight.
Your great liposuction results from ENRICH Clinic require some basic care and maintenance through a healthy diet and exercise regime. Liposuction is not magic, and the procedure comes with caveats regarding diet and exercise choices. Being informed means, you will get the most out of your procedure.
When we look deeper into how fat cells work, it gets confusing quickly, and we end up with quite a few questions. Can fat cells grow back? Can we lose fat cells? What keeps the balance of fat cells steady? Let’s dive in.
The life and death of a fat cell
Like almost all the cells in your body, fat cells die, and new ones grow. What controls this new fat-cell growth is still a much-investigated medical mystery, but we do know that your fat cells don’t last a lifetime; only the number of fat cells remains stable in adulthood.
Estimates are that every year, you switch out 10 per cent of your fat cells, old for new. This process is called cell turnover and occurs throughout your body in an endless cycle. The most obvious examples of cell turnover are hair, skin and nails. Each type of cell has its lifespan and steps in its lifecycle. Mostly, however, cell turnover is invisible to us.
What determines just how many fat cells each of us has remains a mystery, but a study into children found that at age one, researchers could predict obesity due to the number and size of the fat cells present. Other studies have examined this in more detail, including the type of fat cells that develop and at what age.
Can we lose fat cells?
A study into obese people who underwent bariatric surgery (stomach stapling, sleeves or other stomach-size control surgery) found that even though the patients lost a great deal of weight, they maintained the same number of fat cells. In the study on children, they discovered that people who are obese tend to be born with bigger and more fat cells.
In this study, the fat cells shrank, indicating that we don’t lose fat cells when we lose weight. Maybe we can only gain fat cells, indicates another study.
How a fat cell works
Think of a fat cell like a water balloon – you can fill it up and squirt some out. Your body stores fatty acids (such as omega-3 or saturated fatty acids) in fat cells, giving and taking as required for energy and body functions.
If you do lots of exercise or eat fewer calories, for example, you use up fatty acids – your fat cell water balloon shrinks.
If you eat lots of cheeseburgers and sit around, you store more fatty acids – the fat cell balloon fills up, expanding. One study found that in certain circumstances, you can start to grow new fat cells.
Can fat cells grow back after liposuction?
What seems clear is that your body wants to keep the fat balance, though, besides energy intake and expenditure, the reasons are mysterious astohow your body determines what this balance is.
Dr Salans, an obesity researcher, said about fat regulation in the body: ‘I suspect that the body’s regulation of weight is so complex that if you intervene at this site, something else is going to happen to neutralise this intervention.’
There is an interesting phenomenon after liposuction, whereby the body appears to try to compensate for the fat lost by adding fat around your internal organs (visceral fat). Visceral fat is unhealthy, we know that, but research shows that we can easily combat this extra unwanted gain with exercise.
Studies show that with regular weight training, visceral fat accumulation after liposuction isn’t an issue, and neither is post-procedure weight gain.
Moral of the story
To maintain your great results, you do need to avoid weight gain after liposuction. We know: life happens, so if you do gain weight, don’t worry – your overall shape will tend to stay put, but you do need to keep an eye on visceral fat.
If you don’t manage your diet and exercise routines, you can put on weight just like everybody else. Except, you won’t gain much fat in the liposuction-treated area because the fat cells there don’t exist as numerously as they used to, so the fat will go to other places.
The resetting of the scales, so to speak, is not necessarily like-for-like. That is, you won’t grow new fat cells in the area from which they were taken.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising and thus maintaining a stable weight protects you from weight gain after liposuction.
Remember, the point of liposuction is not to lose weight, but to reshape the body. This reshaping occurs because we strategically remove some fat, and in some cases, very small amounts. Your new shape will still be there if you put on weight.
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