After Liposuction, the Fat Comes Back

Fat may not reappear in the area that was lipo'd but is does find its way to the most unexpected places

If exercise fails to give you the svelte figure you’ve always wanted, there’s always liposuction, right?

Just about every woman harbors secret fantasies of some day suctioning away all of those pesky rolls, dimples and saddlebags.

Well, it may be time to crack open your liposuction piggy bank and spend that money on a personal trainer instead. A study in the most recent issue of the journal Obesity found that liposuction does in fact remove unwanted fat, but the results don’t last. After a year, all of the fat will return,  like your worst recurring nightmare. But instead of showing up in the thighs and lower stomach, from where it had been removed, the fat reappears in the upper belly, shoulders and triceps. Not so keen on shoulder saddlebags? You could probably hang tassels from them to masquerade as epaulets -- which are very on-trend this season.

In the study, a group of healthy, bottom-heavy women received liposuction on their thighs and lower abdomen. Another group, which served as the control, did not receive any surgery. (As a consolation prize, those who weren’t granted free lipo were told they could get it at a discounted rate after the study was over, if they still wanted it.) All of the participants agreed not to alter their lifestyle habits throughout the course of the study, so that they could better account for any body measurement changes that occurred. Two weeks after surgery, those who got lipo had body fat percentages of two percent less than what it was before the procedure. At the one-year mark, it had all come back. While the thighs remained thin, other areas of the body picked up the re-emerging fat cells.   

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, liposuction is the second most popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S., after breast implants. Nearly 290,000 fat-sucking surgeries were performed in 2010. The procedure can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $7,500 per body part. That’s quite a bit of bucks to spend on results that last only one swimsuit season. Plus, it would be one thing if the results simply faded away, leaving you with your post-operative body. It’s another to have to learn to live with fat in areas you least expected it -- like your upper belly and arms.

I remember years ago, listening to Adam Carolla on Loveline -- a radio call-in show with Dr. Drew Pinsky -- talk about getting Botox to put the kibosh on his super sweaty hands. The result, he claimed, was that he had started sweating in entirely new areas, like his buttocks. Turns out, the body is one mean self-regulating machine. If it needs to perspire to cool off its core temperature, it’s going to find a way to do so, Botox be damned.

The body’s mechanisms for protecting its fat stash appear to be no different. According to The New York Times’ report, past research on rodents found that when fat cells removed they always grew back. Fat cells come and go, but the number we have in our body at any given time remains constant throughout life, obesity researcher Rudolph Leibel told The Times

Despite the study’s findings, the women who had the liposuction still reported being happy with the results. Apparently, they preferred the tubby arms and flabby belly to the thunder thighs they once had. Half of the women who were offered liposuction after the study ended chose to go ahead with the procedure even though the were told about the not-so-flattering results. So much for being careful what you wish for. 

WATCH: iVoices Does Laser Lipo Really Work?

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