Traditionally, liposuction has always been thought to confer only cosmetic benefits, as it is only able to remove subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) and not visceral fat (organ fat). For years, experts have assumed that visceral fat surrounding the internal organs has greater metabolic importance and is more directly linked to cardiovascular disease.
However, an interesting study led by Dr Eric Swanson, a plastic surgeon in Kansas, presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons suggests that liposuction has legitimate health benefits as well – by reducing harmful fat circulating in the bloodstream and lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.
The study measured the triglyceride (fat circulating in the blood) levels in 229 people who had undergone liposuction. The results made people sit up and take notice – people who had started out with high triglyceride levels (150mg/dL or more) had a 43% decrease in blood levels 3 months after surgery. This was nearly twice the reduction one would usually experience by taking medication that lowers blood lipids.
However liposuction made no difference to people whose triglyceride levels were normal to begin with. Other types of lipids, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and fasting glucose was also unchanged.
Triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or greater are known to be associated with an increased cardiovascular risk and metabolic syndrome. Hence, a decrease in triglyceride levels after liposuction may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Also significant from the study was the effect of Liposuction on white blood cell levels. White blood cell counts of the 229 also fell by 11% after their liposuction. White blood cells are linked to inflammation within the body and therefore cardiovascular disease.
More and more, studies are beginning to suggest that subcutaneous fat may be just as metabolically important as visceral fat in determining risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These new findings seem to suggest that even more, although more larger scale and longer term studies are needed to confirm these possible health benefits of liposuction.
Before you run to your plastic surgeon for a liposuction appointment, however, remember that liposuction is not a cure all. You need to supplement your weight loss/ body contouring program with a sensible diet and exercise. Speak to your doctor for more information about liposuction, and what it can do for you.
Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011 Sep;128(3):182e-197e. Prospective clinical study reveals significant reduction in triglyceride level and white blood cell count after liposuction and abdominoplasty and no change in cholesterol levels. Swanson E.