By Joan Kron
Detox diet? Protein shakes? Hoodie? A tabloid recently reported that a certain music star had gone “from flab to fab” not with any of these methods, but with injections. The photographs are riveting. In the before picture, the diva’s exposed midriff looks soft; in the after image, her abs are washboard flat. This was all accomplished, readers are informed, by a series of shots to the stomach and thighs with “Hollywood’s hottest new ‘must-have’ procedure”: lipodissolve – a “revolutionary” micro-injection process that rids the body of fat. “Like most stars.” the article proclaims, the singer “is always searching for the next big thing to make her look better.”
So are plenty of other women. And there is no question that the next big thing in cosmetic procedures is fat melting. Nonsurgical fat-reducing treatments are increasingly available and popular; they include lipodissolve (sometimes marketed as Lipostabil and generically referred to as injection lipolysis), which involves shots of chemical cocktail to rupture fat cells; and two devices, Ultrashape and LipoSonix, which employ ultrasound waves to destroy the fat. Novel eradicators of fat are also being developed by scientists at Harvard Medical School and Georgetown University Medical Center, among others.
So far, Ultrashape and LipoSonix have not raised any significant safety concerns, although neither is yet available in the United States. Ultrashape is already approved in 48 countries including Canada, and 40,000 treatments have been performed with no reported serious side effects. Three treatments per area, at one-month intervals, is the recommended regimen; the company is now seeking FDA clearance.
LipoSonix will be offered in Europe and Asia by the end of this year. In both procedures, the doctor guides an ultrasound wand across the target areas to destroy fat cells. The released fat is then carried by the lymphatic system to the liver, where it can be broken down and burned as energy. Fat loss and skin shrinkage is gradual – in a LipoSonix trial, peak results were visible between 8 and 12 weeks after one treatment, though additional sessions may be required.
The two procedures have never been directly compared, but both seem to produce losses of one to three inches per body part within three treatments, according to Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist in Toronto who offers Ultrashape, and Mark Jewell, a plastic surgeon in Eugene, Oregon, who has studied LipoSonix. Side effects for both most commonly involve slight redness. LipoSonix may also temporarily cause bruising or numbness; mild burns (with no scarring) have occurred rarely with Ultrashape.
Currently, these procedures can only be done on the waist, hips, abdomen, or outer thighs; the arms, inner thighs, knees, back, and neck are off-limits until the ultra-sound wands can be made smaller. Teresa, 37, an education teacher in Laguna Beach, California, says that after three painless UltraShape sessions in Tiajuana, she lost five inches on her waist.