Fat cells, or adipocytes, are your body’s fat storage location. Adipocytes form your adipose tissue which is a type of connective tissue and when present in healthy amounts, is important in:
- Storing energy
- Protection and cushion for your organs
- Controlling blood sugar and appetite
Adipose tissue is found in throughout your body:
- Subcutaneous – just below your skin where it insulates your body and is important in releasing hormones that help you feel full or control blood sugar.
- Epicardial – surrounds the heart where it supplies the heart with energy in times of high activity. It can also protect the heart from damage.
- Ectopic – abnormal fat stored in places where it normally isn’t. This includes the liver, skeleton, muscles, and pancreas. It is related to type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Many people fear the fat in their body but, in healthy levels it serves an important function. The problem starts when there is too much fat in the body or the wrong type of fat. Adipose cells can come in different types and perform different functions. Two of these types are:
- White adipocytes – these cells contain one large fat droplet. These cells can grow larger or multiply as more and more fat is taken up by the body. This is the fat the people generally fear.
- Brown adipocytes – these cells contain many little drops of fat and lots of mitochondria. Their purpose is to generate body heat and they are present in large numbers in newborns or hibernating animals.
Research shows that brown adipocytes could combat obesity and type 2 diabetes by burning off excess fat stores. It seems beneficial to have more brown fat and less white fat. Like most things in life, too much of a good thing is bad.