Liposuction – the Good, the Bad and the Unknown

289,000 people had liposuction procedures in 2010, according to Surgery.Org statistics.  Many had it to suck the fat out of their bellies.

We all know that fat is bad, fat is ugly and fat causes us health problems.  We also know it is very hard to lose, especially that well known old fashioned middle aged spread. Spending a few bucks on liposuction seems like a great way to look better, feel better and be healthier – especially if we have tried the sweat and starve routine and it didn’t work out at all for us.

There is good new and bad news about using liposuction to remove those excess pounds of fat in certain areas of our body.

The Good News About Liposuction

The good news is that the process works (at least for awhile) and lots of doctors have had some good practice doing it.

Other good news, is that a study done this year shows that removing the fat via liposuction actually has health benefits – by reducing those harmful triglycerides in people who had them before the surgery.  A study presented at American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that after 3 months there was a 43% reduction in triglycerides in people who had high levels prior to liposuction.

Los Angelos Times article that reported on this, said that the doctor who led the study  “also found that white blood cell counts fell 11% after liposuction. White blood cells are linked to inflammation in the body and are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The Bad News About Liposuction

The bad news is that the above needs to be proven out over time.  The New York Times claims that the body defends it’s fat cells.  If you suck fat cells out of your belly, they will return elsewhere.  In the article With Liposuction, the Belly Finds What the Thighs Lose  By Gina Kolata, Ms Kolata reports on a study  done by  Drs. Teri L. Hernandez and Robert H. Eckel of the University of Colorado.  They found that fat cells returned, albeit in a different part of the body – within a year of the liposuction.  The article claims that even fat cells lost the old fashioned way, by eating right and exercising, come back.

On another front, more bad news was reported by Time Magazine   way back in 2004.  Based on yet another study – this one by Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, it was found that removal of fat by liposuction, unlike through diet and exercise, did not decrease the biological risk factors of the 15 women in the study.

The Unknown About Liposuction

Although liposuction has been performed in the USA since 1974 and hundreds of thousands of people get it done each year, there haven’t been that many studies as to it’s long term health effects.  The New York Times article above quotes Jonathan Moreno, an ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania as saying that the reason not many studies have been done is that surgery is very personal – the surgeon gets a deep connection with their patients, making it difficult to ‘randomize’ the patients in a clinical research project.  Different surgeons have different skill levels and perform the liposuction in different ways.     In addition it takes a team of researchers and lots of money.  These things make it difficult to design and execute a scientific study of the results of liposuction, according to the article.

Many Go For It!

In spite of the good, the bad and the unknown, many people choose this method to help shape their bodies. The Mayo clinic says that it is the most common cosmetic procedure (read that, insurance usually won’t pay for it) in the United States. The best candidates for it, according to Mayo are physically active, near their ideal weights and have good skin condition and elasticity. It is a method to shape the body, not a weight loss technique.

Consult your doctor if you are considering liposuction.