Freeze or puncture your fat cells?

I read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, but ended up with several caveats.  The FDA has recently approved two new gadgets that physicians can now use in office-based procedures to get rid of fat.

I had to read that several times before I fully understood what was and what was not going on. Let's talk about the devices themselves first. One freezes fat cells, leading them to shut down over a few months. The other is laser-based and basically punctures fat cells; they then empty out mch of their fat, but don't die.

Wow, that sounds wonderful, but is it? These new therapeutic tools can be used without anesthesia or any major pain, on outpatients and remove fat deposits. The problems are you don't actually lose any weight, the treatments are relatively expensive ($1,500 to $3,000) and they release fat into the blood stream, so it ends up elsewhere.

So let's go back to why someone would want to have such devices used on them in the first place. Fat deposits in our bodies may end up in subcutaneous areas, one such area, fondly named "love handles" by many, would be an example.  They are unsightly and lots of us would like to get rid of them.

Pinch an inch...or more?

Pinch an inch...or more?

On the other hand, fat can be deposited in visceral areas, for instance in and around your heart and liver, and that's much more of a problem.

The "subQ" fat cells can actually be helpful in some senses. They take in fat that's in the bloodstream, package it nicely in large globs and act as storage tanks, releasing the fat when your body needs energy. These are "healthy" fat cells, as opposed to the potentially deadly ones affecting your vital organs.

We've still got a lot to learn about fat cells, but there have been some relatively new discoveries concerning their natural history. Lean folk have perhaps a third the number of fat cells as do the very obese; fat cells die and we get new ones on a regular basis; the distribution of our fat cells changes as we age (less subQ, more visceral). And they produce a number of chemical agents, including estrogen and leptin (the latter influences your appetite).

The issue many experts have with the new tools is serious and would make me want to think twice about having these procedures. One real problem is the what happens to the fat that's released after either device is used; another is what happens to your leptin levels (if they go down, you may want to increase your calorie intake.

All in all I'm not real impressed by either of these brand new modalities. Remember they can remove localized fat deposits, but they don't cause people to lose weight. But I'll bet they get used a lot. Let's look back at this issue in a few years.

2 Responses to “Freeze or puncture your fat cells?”

  1. Very nice post. It seems that most of the steps are relying on the creative thinking factor.

  2. how can i lose fat fast...

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