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What Is a Fat Cell?

Fat is not as bad as it is often assumed to be. The body simply needs fat in the right quantities. A fat cell is also called a lipocyte or an adipocyte and forms the basic structure of body fat, which is also known as adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is found just beneath the skin, in the bone marrow, breast tissue and surrounding internal organs.

Adipose tissue is divided into two distinct types based on the different fat cells in the tissue. There is white and brown adipose tissue. Unilocular fat cells make up white adipose tissue, whilst multilocular fat cells are contained in brown fat cells. The average adult female’s weight consists of 25% white adipose tissue, whilst most men carry about less than 5% of that. White adipose tissue have the main function of storing lipids for release into energy and to keep up the body heat by ensuring the body stays insulated.

Multilocular fat cells contain a high amount of mitochondria that help to produce energy and influence the brown color of the cells. Because they demand more oxygen, brown fat cells contain more capillaries than white fat tissue. Brown fat cells are able to generate heat and help to prevent hypothermia. This is why brown fat cells are high in infants as a form of protection against the cold. In adults, brown fat cells are found mainly in the neck and thorax.

Fat cells are a part of the endocrine system as they produce hormones. The hormones produced include estrogen, leptin, resistin and cytokine.

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