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Liposuction may have a legitimate health benefit

September 22, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • A nurse prepares for a liposuction procedure.
A nurse prepares for a liposuction procedure. (Rick Meyer / Los Angeles…)

Liposuction patients are usually after one thing: a better-looking body. But a new study suggests the cosmetic procedure that removes fat from well-padded areas of the body may also reduce harmful fat circulating in the blood.

Research to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Denver was aimed at measuring triglyceride levels in 229 people having liposuction. In people with normal triglyceride levels, cosmetic surgery made no difference. But among people who started out with high triglycerides, blood tests taken three months after surgery showed a 43% reduction in triglycerides.

That's about twice the reduction people usually get by taking cholesterol-lowering medications. There was no change in other cholesterol or glucose levels.

The study, led by Dr. Eric Swanson, a plastic surgeon in Leawood, Kan., also found that white blood cell counts fell 11% after liposuction. White blood cells are linked to inflammation in the body and are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

It's not known how long the reduction in triglycerides lasts, however, and whether the surgery can actually lower the risk of heart disease. Moreover, the study raises questions about which types of fat in the body are really harmful.

"For years, it has been assumed that visceral fat surrounding the internal organs has greater metabolic importance and is more directly linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk than 'subcutaneous fat' that lies under the skin," Swanson said in a news release. "These new findings support recent studies suggesting subcutaneous fat, which can be reduced by liposuction, is just as metabolically important."

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