The radioactive carbon-14 produced by above-ground nuclear testing in the 1950s and ’60s has helped researchers determine that the number of fat cells in a human’s body, whether lean or obese, is established during the teenage years. Changes in fat mass in adulthood can be attributed mainly to changes in fat cell volume, not an increase in the actual number of fat cells. These results could help researchers develop new pharmaceuticals to battle obesity as well as the accompanying diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
A new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Bruce Buchholz—along with colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden; Humboldt University Berlin, Foundation of Research and Technology in Greece; Karolinska University Hospital; and Stockholm University—applied carbon dating to DNA to discover that the number of fat cells stays constant in adulthood in lean and obese individuals, even after marked weight loss, indicating that the number of fat cells is set during childhood and adolescence.
Release date: May 5, 2008
Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory