Liposuction Patients May Be Trading One Fat For Another

By Amir Khan on June 18, 2012 12:11 PM EDT

Lipo
People who undergo liposuction in an effort to get rid of unwanted belly fat may actually be trading off one type of fat for another, according to a new study, (Photo: Creative Commons)

People who undergo liposuction in an effort to get rid of unwanted belly fat may actually be trading off one type of fat for another, according to a new study, published in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers found that when belly fat is sucked out, a different, more dangerous type of fat takes it place. The good news, however, is that exercise can prevent the dangerous fat from settling in, showing that even once the inches are off your waist, you need to work to keep it off, researchers said.

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"If someone chooses to undergo liposuction, it is very important, if not essential, that this person exercises after the surgery," Fabiana Benatti, study author and researcher with the University of Sao Paulo, told WebMD.

Liposuction removes subcutaneous fat, which is the fat that is right below the skin. But researchers found that once that fat is removed, visceral fat, which surrounds internal organs, increased. High amount of visceral fat is linked to diabetes and heart disease, according to the study.

However, by beginning an exercise program shortly after surgery, study participants were able to reap the benefits of the liposuction without the increase of visceral fat.

"A four-month, supervised exercise program prevented this compensatory visceral fat increase, increased fat-free mass and improved physical capacity," Benatti told HealthDay.

Researchers followed 36 women in Brazil who underwent liposuction of their abdomen, half of whom began an exercise regimen. Six months after surgery, the women who did not exercise had a 10 percent higher increase in visceral fat compared to those who exercised three times a week

"If you take fat from one area, your body compensates in other areas," Dr. Pankaj Tiwari, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Ohio State University, told WebMD. "We gain weight for metabolic reasons and those hormonal drivers are not changed by liposuction."

Many experts were not surprised by the findings, saying exercise is key to a healthy diet.

"You oftentimes have this snapback of the fats," Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern, who was not involved in the study, told HealthDay. "Sure, you can get rid of some of it with surgery. But if you don't change your lifestyle, it doesn't stay away forever. And certainly if you've spent all this money and incurred the risk of undergoing liposuction -- and it's not a risk-free option, by any means -- why wouldn't you want to do what you can to preserve the gain?"

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