Possibly the beauty breakthrough of the decade (and it’s only 2011!), fat-melting lasers and other devices are poised to change the way we tone and sculpt our bodies. Here’s a little cheat sheet about the latest technologies, and what they mean in our fight against fat.
Laser liposuction: Laser energy can be used in combination with traditional liposuction to take results to a new level. The laser energy is deliveredinternally to destroy fat cells permanently before the suction removes the melted fat. Some proponents say that the addition of the laser helps tighten up skin in trouble spots such as under the chin, while detractors say there’s no benefit to using lasers. The decision is yours, but make sure you select an artistic physician who can sculpt natural looking contours. Cryotherapy (cold) devices: Doctors have long known that cold can be used to destroy fat, and Zerona and Zeltiq follow this premise. So far, I’m not that impressed with the results from Zerona, but Zeltiq has been successful. However, Zeltiq can only treat an area the size of a stick of butter, which makes it time-consuming and somewhat impractical. However, we soon expect to see handpieces that will be able to target larger areas. Technology may improve in the next six months. Ultrasound: Though not yet approved in the United States, my Canadian friends are using this procedure. There are two currently in FDA trials — one hurts, the other doesn’t, one has instant results and one takes a few months. It is too soon to say if this treatment is safe or effective for the long-term. Injections: Fat-melting injections such as Lipodissolve (also called mesotherapy) have been the subject of much controversy over the past few years, and Brazil has even banned the treatment because of severe side effects. (Many clinics in the United States using these treatments have had their hands slapped by the FDA, which is cracking down on the use of unproven mesotherapy injections.) However, one U.S. company is studying a form of these injections thought to be safer for treating fat beneath the chin. If deemed safe, it will be a breakthrough. It still has to go through the rigorous FDA process, so it may be a few years away. Combination treatments: Radiofrequency is often used in conjunction with liposuction or ultrasound to help skin tighten up the skin where fat is removed. The next generation of fat-melting lasers and ultrasound may include radiofrequency to improve outcomes.The bottom lineIn my opinion, none of these devices work as well as they will in a few years, so surgical liposuction is still the best bet. Ultrasound devices seem to be on the verge of approval, and these may represent the most effective options. I’m also optimistic about injectable treatments to remove localized fat deposits that are unaffected by diet and exercise. As the saying goes, only time will tell, but I can say with certainty that we’re on our way to winning the battle against the bulge.