Study: Lipo means fat comes back in funky places

Although we're warned by celebrity trainers, nutritionists, books, studies, and anecdotes that there absolutely, positively is no miracle cure for being overweight, doesn't liposuction still hold that promise for us? Even just a little bit?

Of course, we tout the surgery in a diplomatic manner, saying that it is the "when all else fails" option after babies stretch out our abdomens or our saddlebags won't budge no matter how much time we spend in the gym. But really, it has to be the allure of drifting off into an anesthesia-induced slumber with big thighs we hate and waking up with much smaller, bruised thighs we will certainly love that leads to 450,000 lipo surgeries a year.

As with every bit of magic, there's a hitch. Scientists say, despite testimonials and the many before and after photos lining coffee tables in cosmetic surgeons' offices, this includes liposuction.

A new study published in the journal Obesity finds that the fat that is suctioned out does come back. And to make matters worse (and possibly more expensive), it comes back in funky places, like the arms and shoulders. The study followed two groups of women, one with non-obese participants who had liposuction on their abdomen or thighs and one with participants who were asked to refrain from having the procedure (they served as the control group and were offered a discounted rate on liposuction following the study).

Researchers found that all the fat returned, sometimes taking as long as a year and often "redistributed upstairs" as described by Dr. Teri Eckel, one of the lead authors of the study. People who have liposuction surgery on their thighs, for example, will likely develop an equal number of fat cells in their upper abdomen, triceps, or other part of their body above the target area.

The study also found that the results were not dependent on the surgeon. Since each cosmetic surgeon may have their own style or anecdotes or success rate, it may seem like picking the right doctor is the key to avoiding this fat transfer. The researchers underline, however, that this is all (as said so eloquently) "the biology of fat."

Why does this happen? Researchers say that our bodies want to hold on to fat and that, if removed, it will produce new fat cells to replace the lost ones. They also say that fat cells have a life span of about seven years and when those are shed, new ones form. Lipo surgery may ruin the subcutaneous structure of the suctioned area so that fat cells essentially retreat to new battle grounds of the body.

Similar studies with rodents have echoed this new one with human participants. The women who did have lipo as a part of this research were satisfied, Eckel reported, mostly wanting fat in their target areas removed. And of those asked to refrain from the procedure, more than half went ahead with lipo. Even after hearing the results about fat funkiness.

Does this mean we hate our jelly bellies or wobbly bits so much we're willing to trade them in for strangely lumpy forearms or shoulders we can't hold purses on?

Or does it mean our definition of the magic cure now includes some compromises?

Knowing that the fat is guaranteed to come back somewhere, somehow, would you still opt for lipo?