For over three decades, thousands of women have turned to liposuction for removal of their unwanted lumps and bumps. The results of going “under the knife” have been seen as nothing short of miraculous in the quest for firmer backsides, slender thighs, and flat abdomens. But just when you think you’re rid of the unsightly fat once and for all, you may find that it has returned in some unexpected places.
According to a new study from the University of Colorado, non-obese patients who underwent liposuction for removal of fat deposits from thighs and lower abdomens found that new fat deposits began to appear elsewhere on their bodies. The details on the research can be found in the journal Obesity.
Liposuction is a simple surgical procedure that improves the body’s contour by removing excess fat deposits located between the skin and muscle. The procedure involves injecting large amounts of medicated fluid into fat deposits, then sucking the fluid and the fat out of the body. Although the patient undergoing the procedure will experience initial swelling and bruising, the end result is a smoother, firmer, slimmer area that would normally take months of dieting and exercise to achieve. Although the risk of adverse effects including shock, infections, uneven appearance, and scarring exist, these risks do little to discourage the willingness of patients to seek the popular treatment. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about 200,000 Americans opted for liposuction in 2010 alone.
The new research, led by Drs. Teri L. Hernandez and Robert H. Eckel of the University of Colorado found that just one year after having their unwanted fat removed, liposuction patients experienced the return of fat to other areas of the body including shoulders, arms, and upper abdomen. Seemingly, the removal of fat deposits from the lower body results in a re-distribution of fat into the upper body.
The study involved 32 healthy, non-obese women having an average age in their middle thirties. Among the group, 14 women underwent lipsuction for the removal of a modest amount of fat from their hips and thighs, while the other 18 women were promised a discount in price for the procedure if they would postpone undergoing the surgery and act as the control group for the study. In addition, all of the study participants were asked not to make any lifestyle changes for the duration of the study.
For the study, measurements were taken from each of the women in the study at six weeks, six months and one year to track distribution of fat. Findings shows that after six weeks, the liposuction patients had lost a total of 2.1 percent of fat, while among the control group, the total fat loss was only 0.28 percent. However, after one year, the difference fat loss was so diminished it was deemed to be no longer significant. In addition, the fat that returned to those women having opted for the liposuction procedure was generally redistributed from the thigh to the abdomen.
According to Dr. Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University, “it’s another chapter in the ‘You can’t fool Mother Nature’ story.’” He pointed out that because the body controls both the number of fat cells and the amount of fat it holds, the death of a fat cell simply needs to the re-growth of a new one to replace it. Furthermore, since liposuction destroys the structure under the skin, this could help to explain why fat cells don’t grow back in the same place from which they were removed.
Surprisingly, the study findings did little to quell the positive perception of many of the women involved in the research. Among those who underwent the procedure, most were satisfied and pleased to be rid of the fat deposits removed, even though new deposits replaced them in other areas of the body. Similarly, among the control group, the majority of the women still wanted to undergo their promised discounted procedures.