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Weight Management

Liposuction: A Big Fat lie

Margerie, a friend who I’ve known for many years, looked at me tearfully as she hugged her grotesquely swollen body. She hoped I could help. Or at least explain….


A week previously she had Liposuction or ‘Lipo’ on her ‘spare tires’.  Lipo is a minimally invasive surgical procedure which uses small cannulas to literally suck fat out of the body, and reshape problem areas.

It’s touted as a ‘magic solution’ for stubborn fat which you can’t budge via normal diet and exercise. Since it doesn’t usually require all the hassles and cost of full blown surgery, and supposedly has minimal side effects and down time, it’s very popular.

Indeed, there are now more than 450,000 liposuctions performed a year in the US alone.

Of course, we know there’s no such thing as a quick fix or magic pill when it comes to weight loss or fat reduction.

One would also expect that after almost three decades of use, plastic surgeons would know just about everything there is to know about liposuction. But it turns out that either they don’t know, or, they don’t want to say.

Not only do they down play the relatively common side effects: significant swelling, bruising, infections, traumatised skin and long-lasting tissue and nerve damage. But there’s also one key fact they don’t tell you:

The sucked out blubber returns. With vengeance!

A recent study on humans reveals what was previously shown in rats: fat doesn’t come back to the same areas, but instead returns in other places within a year. The lumps of fat are redistributed to areas like the upper abdomen, shoulders and triceps.

How come?

Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at New York's Columbia University, said that the reason why fat doesn't return to the same areas of the body is because the liposuction process destroys the structure underneath the skin, making the body compensate by allowing fat to congregate in new regions.

Also as the lead researcher Dr Eckel said: “Levels of body fat are very tightly regulated by mechanisms we have yet to uncover. In rodents when fat is removed it returns, and after weight loss in humans most everyone regains the weight. We think the brain somehow knows how much fat is on board and responds in a manner to regulate that weight. That's why preventing obesity in the first place is so important."

Indeed, armed with this knowledge about liposuction, it makes more sense than ever to reshape your body through exercise and diet instead of turning to questionable surgical procedures.

But despite this, the idea of a quick ‘fix’ to remove blubber is alluring isn’t it?

It’s so alluring that more than half the women in the study control group (the ones who didn't have the surgery for the first year) opted to have it anyway. That was after hearing that their counterparts had already gained the fat back in odd places.

They were also given a great incentive: less cost!

As for Margerie, she needed emergency surgery to drain excessive amounts of toxic fluid that had accumulated around her kidneys.

I feel for her.

But she is also a stark reminder that you can’t fool Mother Nature. Trying to “Make a silk purse out of a sows ear" will backfire, eventually.

Caramia Hartley


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