In 2013 it is possible to remove fat bulges without surgery. The two most popular technologies are cryolipolysis, a laser treatment that freezes fat; and focused ultrasound, a procedure that that uses heat. Both are FDA approved, and do not require cutting the skin, so there is minimal downtime. There are also some new, injectable treatments on the horizon – yet to be FDA approved.
- Four important questions:
- Do these treatments really work?
- Are they safe?
- Are they cost effective
- Does diet and exercise work better?
Cryolipolysis (aka Coolsculpting or Zeltig laser ) works by freezing the fat cells, causing a percentage of fat cells to self-destruct over several months’ time. The treatment targets large fat deposits around the abdomen and sides of the waist. Typically it takes 4 treatments sessions, done in the office, costing $600- $800/session. Contour improvements in the treated areas are visible at 3-6 months. Common temporary side effects lasting a few weeks include swelling, redness, discomfort and numbness of the treatment site. There have been no serious long lasting complications to date.
Targeted ultrasound uses high intensity sound waves that penetrate the skin to mechanically destroy fat cells. The procedure can be done in one treatment session. A study of 85 patients showed a 2 inch decrease in waist size after 1 treatment. Skeptics say waist measurement is no very exact and in fact, the benefit may be less than reported. And, there is a negative aspect: side effects after treatment can include prolonged tenderness, bruising, swelling and formation of bumps or nodules in a few patients. All are reported to resolve without longterm problems
These new non-surgical options are relatively safe, but the benefits are modest compared to surgical options such as liposuction or tummy tuck. And, those benefits are modest compared to what can be achieved with diet and exercise-see below.
The latest “snake-oil” in the area of non- invasive fat removal are injectable cellulite treatments called mesotherapy or lipo-dissolve. The goal is to inject the medicine under the skin for spot fat removal. Several of these medications are currently undergoing FDA trials. In the meantime, the FDA has issued warning letters to medi-spas and to a Brazilian manufacturer about making false claims such as : “outstanding safety record”, “superior to liposuction” and “safe and effective”. There have been reports of unexpected problems such as painful knots under the skin at injection sites and permanent scarring. It is best to wait for the FDA to complete their evaluation before considering one of these options.
What about weight loss to reduce inches? Ten pounds of weight loss can result in a one inch of waist reduction as well as improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other measures of health. According to Jeanne Peters, registered dietician and nutrition director of the Nourishing Wellness Medical Group in Redondo Beach,” successful loss of inches with weight loss is achievable in 3-5 months”. Whether you chose Weight Watchers, a paleo-diet with no grains or dairy, or track food intake on on a mobile app, changing habits to a healthier diet and increasing your activity can result in weight loss and fat loss. By losing 20 pounds and 2 inches of fat, over time, the benefits will be greater in terms of your health, with less strain on your budget.