There are various articles online quoting studies (or even loosely referring to "studies" without reference) claiming you can only gain fat cells but not loose them. Some examples include Calorielab.com:

Fat Cells Shrink, But Don’t Die

As well as CNN.com:

"If anyone of us overeats long and hard enough, we can increase the number of fat cells in our body," Fried said. "When we lose weight, we don't lose the number of fat cells."

Earlier in the article: "Susan Fried, director of the Boston Obesity and Nutrition Research Center at the Boston University School of Medicine"

CNN does mention one way to actually get rid of the cells:

Liposuction can remove fat cells

Wikipedia also chips in on the Adipocyte article, which has a section on Cell Turnover that claims:

Even after marked weight loss, the body never loses adipocytes.

Now, to end with a question: are these claims true that you can not loose fat cells with any kind of lifestyle change (diet, exercise, etc), and only with invasive (e.g. surgical) methods?

1 Answer 1


Here is a 2008 article in the New York Times, referencing an article published in Nature. According to this research, fat cells die as part of normal body processes, but they are replaced in the same quantities. This appears to maintain the same number of fat cells in the body, under most circumstances.


This is the referenced publication, by Kirsty L. Spalding, et al.: http://www.nature.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/nature/journal/v453/n7196/full/nature06902.html

Here is a review article on "adipocyte turnover" from 2010, by Peter Arner and Spalding: http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/science/article/pii/S0006291X10004067

My take on the review article is that the cycle of death & rebirth in fat cells can be modified, but that doing so without other changes to diet and exercise is unlikely to have much effect. That is, even if you are able to adjust the set-point for number of adipocytes, the remaining cells will simply get larger, unless you also modify other processes.

  • Do fat cells multiply in response to increased fat deposits? If yes, does the increased numbers hinder weight loss? Nov 5, 2014 at 7:29

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