A new study has revealed that no matter how rigorous a dieting schedule is followed, there will be no decrease in the number of fat cells in the body.
The study suggests that you may be losing or gaining weight due to modifications in the size of the fat cells, also called adipocytes that constitute fatty deposits in the body.
The findings also proposed that the process of weight gain is fundamentally different in adults and in children. Children may be putting on extra pounds by increasing the overall number of these cells in the body.
Lead researcher Kirsty Spalding, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden said that this might mean that people who get fat during childhood could find it more difficult to shift the weight later in life, compared to those who piled on the pounds as adults.
The team looked at the biopsies of belly fat from 687 people, both lean and obese, and recorded the number and size of fat cells, as well as the subjects' age, sex and body mass index.
When the present data was merged with previous similar data from children, it revealed that the average number of fat cells increases until the age of about 20, and then remains relatively constant, and is closely linked with body mass index.
Even among people who had undergone 'stomach stapling' surgery to reduce food intake, the researchers found no reduction in fat-cell number
The analysis of fat extracted during liposuction procedures from 35 people who had lived through the period of Cold War atomic bomb testing, from 1955-63, with environment a little radioactive than normal showed fat cells were constantly dying and being replaced.
The researchers believe that the new find may help in designing drugs interfering with this process thereby helping people to abstain from weight gain once they have lost it.
Spalding said that such a treatment would be most effective only after patients have undergone serious weight-loss therapies such as gastric surgery. However, she did ask to be cautious.
"It would be very dangerous to give people these drugs while they're still obese," Nature quoted Spalding, as saying.
She said that lowering the number of fat cells while people still have a high fat volume would place extra strain on the fat cells that are left over, leading to metabolic complications such as diabetes.
"I don't think it's going to be as simple as 'take a pill, lose weight, problem solved,'" she said.
"The best take-home message is for people with kids to ensure they have a healthy lifestyle," she added.
The findings appear in the journal Nature 1.