A Fat Lot of Good Liposuction Will Do You

Research shows that liposuction is not an effective long-term weight loss strategy.

If you’re looking to lose weight and reduce body fat, new research suggests that liposuction is far from a magic bullet. A study in Obesity found that just a year after getting liposuction, subjects’ weight and body-fat percentage had climbed back to pre-surgery levels, and that the fat had been redistributed throughout the body.

In the study, healthy, non-obese women each had about 4 pounds of fat removed from their bellies, hips and thighs. After the surgery, the participants all had healthy diets and exercised regularly, but monitoring by researchers showed that body fat slowly reaccumulated over the next 12 months.

Perhaps the more interesting finding is where the body fat returned. “Women who had liposuction in their abdomen and thighs retained the cosmetic benefit in the thighs, but the fat went back to their abdominal region,” according to the study’s lead author, University of Chicago professor of medicine Teri Hernandez, PhD. Fat was also redistributed around the shoulders and triceps. In other words, the fat returned to the gut and spread to other areas, too.

While researchers are unclear on the mechanism that’s causing the body to restore fat levels, the study does suggest that fat — which plays an important role in secreting hormones, storing energy and maintaining energy balance — is tightly regulated by the body.

Hernandez says the takeaway is clear: “Liposuction can be a shape-changing procedure, but it’s not a weight-loss procedure.”

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