Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Limitations of Liposuction

There must be very few women who haven't stood in front of the mirror and wished they could have their body fat sucked away.  Liposuction seems like a too-good-to-be-true solution to this problem.

We all know that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.  A brand-new study published in the journal Obesity looked at the fat distribution of a number of non-obese women before and after liposuction, comparing the results 6 weeks, 6 months and 12 months after the procedure.  They were instructed to make no lifestyle changes that could otherwise skew the outcomes.

Compared to the control group, after the procedure, the liposuction candidates initially had less body fat than before, but as time went on, the difference diminished.  A year out, there was no longer a significant difference in body fat percentage.

What did change was that their thigh fat redistributed itself to the belly region over time.

Besides the fact that abdominal fat is the kind that is associated with higher cardiovascular risk, who wants to replace fat thighs with a fat belly?

How many cosmetic surgeons even hint about this to their prospective patients during their pre-operative consultations, or in their glossy brochures and slick websites?

There is a case to be made for limited liposuction on problem areas that defy other reduction efforts like diet and exercise.  But it seems to me that cosmetic surgeons are playing with fire when they use liposuction to remove large amounts of fat on overweight patients.

Cosmetic surgeons undergo a pretty rigorous training, but they generally aren't well-versed in endocrinology and all the interrelated hormonal processes that take place in the body behind the scenes.  The surgery they perform is called cosmetic for a reason. 

Many of them perform surgeries and other procedures on overweight patients that they would not be so quick to perform if they didn't have sky-high office overheads and lavish lifestyles to finance.

Have you ever stood on the scale and wondered how it is that your weight can be exactly the same from one day to another?  This is what is known as the set point.

The way I see it is that the body's internal chemical and hormonal balance is so intricate that it needs a constant set point, and it will keep reverting to that same point.   Unless, of course, you make structural differences that reset that set point.  Long term, diet will do that, but crash dieting and liposuction only bring about temporary change.

Looked at in this way, the results of the study make complete sense to me.  They should be a big warning signal to anybody seriously considering liposuction, especially if they are overweight to begin with.

The last thing you need is more fat around the waist, but that is what your body will do if you try to mess with its set point.

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