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December 25, 1987

Fat Cells Pose Weighty Question

Author Affiliations

1986-1987 Morris Fishbein Fellow in Medical Journalism

1986-1987 Morris Fishbein Fellow in Medical Journalism

JAMA. 1987;258(24):3488. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400240018005

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DO TOO FAT fat cells, too many fat cells, or both cause obesity? Evidence that may resolve this weighty question continues to accumulate.

That infant overfeeding may play a role in the multifactorial problem of obesity is suggested by an observed relationship between childhood and adult obesity. This relationship, however, has not been completely defined (JAMA 1986;256:2157-2158).

Obese children may not become obese adults, but many obese adults were obese children. As Jules Hirsch, MD, Rockefeller University, New York City, says, "Being an obese child is not surefire, but it does enhance the risk of adult obesity."

Two theories have been advanced to explain the role of infant overfeeding in obesity: that early overfeeding changes fat cells so that they can incorporate more fat or that too many fat cells are produced, increasing the capacity for fat storage.

Hirsch and a colleague, J. L. Knittle, MD, investigated infant overfeeding nearly