Healthbeat Report: Fat Melters

November 17, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Kelley Weigand, 46, says she tried it all.

"No matter how hard I worked out it just never went away," said Weigand.

André Huefler, 37, knows the frustration too.

"I tried cardio, working out, diet," said Huefler.

Both of these seemingly fit people had trouble spots -- annoying pockets of fat that refused to go away despite exercise and dieting. So they're taking advantage of the latest in fat destroying technology, spot treatments done above the skin to attack those annoying love handles, back fat, even the jiggly underarms.

These procedures require no cutting are said to be less painful and cheaper than surgery.

Weigand is going with a newer technology called Exilis, which has been featured on several talk shows. Exilis uses radio frequency energy or r-f to stimulate collagen for tightening the skin. Doctors say it also heats up fat cells so they eventually melt away.

"It's amazing, I mean when you treat over that area you destroy the fat that you have not been able to get rid of for years and tighten the skin on top of it," said Dr. Christina Steil, Hindsale dermatologist.

RF is not new but advocates say this is different because cooling technology on the top of the skin allows RF waves to be continuous and go deeper in the fat .

Weigand, who is already a fit Zumba instructor, wanted a tighter tummy and a trimmer waist line. She underwent four one-hour treatments with Exilis at a cost of roughly $400-600 per session.

"I have lost over an inch," said Weigand.

Huefler, an active horse trainer, has had his trouble spots not heated but literally frozen to death. It's called coolscuplting. Highland Park plastic surgeon Steven Bloch says it's consistently effective.

"We want to contour or tweak their body and for that patient for spot reduction it's ideal," said Dr. Bloch.

With coolsculpting the machine sucks on to the trouble area and freezes only the fat cells. That is said to make them to self destruct and then get reabsorbed into the body. Tests have shown it is capable of destroying about 20 percent of fat cells in a roughly 5 by 7 area. With a couple of treatments at a cost of about $600-1500 each, Huefler says he's lost 2 to 3 inches.

"It gives you motivation to go back to the gym even more," said Huefler.

The choices don't end here. Also recently approved for body sculpting is Zerona. It uses low energy lasers that don't heat the skin but are said to still be able to destroy fat cells.

Then there is ultrasound technology now on the market to fight cellulite. But on the U.S. horizon are more aggressive ultrasound devices to permanently destroy fat cells.

So where does the fat go if it's not being surgically removed? The claims are that it's naturally excreted from the body.

Still, the big catch with all of these treatments is that they are only meant to spot reduce. So if you have a lot more than an inch or two to pinch they may not be for you.

"All of these technologies work to a certain degree. The critical part in the whole thing is are you picking the right patient for the right technology," said Dr. Bloch.

In most cases, the results can take weeks even months to be fully realized.

As for effectiveness, it is like anything else: you have to maintain a healthy diet and good exercise routine. For the results to be long lasting. But skeptics say they want more research.

Dr. Christina Steil

Dr. Steven Bloch
Plastic Surgeon




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