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Liposuction For Health

By Dr. Sharon McQuillan
Posted On Feb 12, 2021
Liposuction For Health

Once considered solely an aesthetic procedure, liposuction may have important health benefits. 

If you’re trying to lose weight, you are certainly not alone. Forty percent of women and 24 percent of men are trying to lose weight at any given time in the United States, according to Y.L. Wright, author of Fat Loss Secrets That Really Work. In response to this demand, we have seen a host of products, systems, and diets all promising the holy grail: an easy way to get slim. Studies have shown that traditional diets are not effective in the long run, since 90 to 95 percent of dieters regain their lost weight. Many give up and even resort to extreme measures such as lap bands or gastric bypass surgeries.

Studies on the aforementioned procedures show a failure rate (meaning subjects regained lost weight) of 20 percent for lap band surgery and 35 percent for gastric bypass surgery. These failure rates don’t speak to health risks associated with these procedures.

The best, most logical approach to weight loss includes a healthy diet, hormone balance, and a regular exercise regimen. However, one of the more innovative thoughts in obesity treatment is to simply remove the fat via liposuction. Medical research now shows that the excess fat itself may be one source of this frustrating problem.

Less Is More

So, how does simply removing fat take weight off and actually keep it off? Here’s the concept: Adipose tissue functions as an important endocrine organ in your body, meaning that it produces cellular messengers that are responsible for metabolism and appetite, known as adipokines. The more fat cells you have, the more adipokines you produce. If you produce too many, this can create a harmful imbalance in your body.

Excess abdominal fat is strongly associated with high blood sugar and insulin levels, harmful cholesterol levels, and inflammation—conditions that can increase the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. What’s worse: Excess adipokines can actually make you gain more weight through their effects on important hormones like leptin, cortisol, and insulin.

Another way that fat begets fat is through environmental toxins stored within the fat cells. Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton was the first researcher to suggest that low-level exposure to environmental toxins has pound-promoting effects. Coined obesogens, these chemicals interfere with fat metabolism in a way that promotes obesity. Substances that we are exposed to everyday like plastics, pesticides, metals, and fire retardants can mimic or interfere with the function of hormones in our body. They can increase the number or size of fat cells, and they also affect the hormones responsible for controlling appetite.

Environmental toxins are just that—toxins—that can cause many health problems in addition to obesity. Your body stores these substances in fat but they are released in small quantities over time. Your body doesn’t have the ability to readily breakdown these chemicals to rid them from your body.

The theory is if the subcutaneous fat is removed, then these weight-gaining chemicals will be removed with it. This may help with weight loss as well as overall health. The idea of liposuction offering health benefits is still a new and somewhat controversial idea because liposuction was developed to improve body image, and not health. The plastic surgery literature states that liposuction is not a weight-loss procedure and that it should be reserved for patients with a BMI less than 25. But, why?

Then, of course there is the social bias that overweight people should simply eat less and exercise more, and that this would solve their weight problems. However, this ignores the emerging science supporting that having excess fat is a self-propagating condition.

There are numerous studies citing the many beneficial effects of subcutaneous fat removal. In the British Journal of Plastic Surgery, researchers evaluated insulin sensitivity and inflammatory blood markers in 30 obese women before and after liposuction procedures. When compared to baseline values, liposuction was associated with reductions in body weight, insulin sensitivity, and inflammatory blood values associated with cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.

A study published in the journal Aesthetic Plastic Surgery noted a group of physicians who decided to determine the effect of liposuction on type 2 diabetes based on their patients’ experiences and results. They found that patients who were obese and had serial liposuction treatments noted a substantial decrease in body fat as well as decreased appetite. This was further substantiated by a decrease in blood sugar levels in these patients of 18 percent as well as a drop in HbA1c (a marker for diabetes) of 2.3 percent.

Sensibly Slim

Dr. Eric Swanson of the Swanson Center for Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Leawood, Kansas, published groundbreaking evidence of the effects of liposuction and health. The study measured triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels in 322 patients undergoing liposuction. Patients whose triglyceride levels were elevated pre-surgery experienced a 43 percent average reduction in triglyceride levels post-surgery. The study also found that white blood cell counts decreased an average of 11 percent post-liposuction. Elevated white blood cell counts are associated with inflammation linked to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

This study further supports the theory that removing subcutaneous fat influences metabolic conditions, and therefore can positively affect the myriad medical maladies that obesity causes. Liposuction is currently the most popular cosmetic surgery in the U.S. It requires little down time and has proven safe and effective. More recently it is being considered as an adjunct to weight loss as well as a means to improve overall health. It will still be necessary for patients to commit to a healthy lifestyle, but it may be easier with immediate improvement in body image and fewer adipokines and toxins impeding progress.