F-f-f-f-freezing the f-f-f-f-fat away

Non-surgical technique lets patients chill out, lose those stubborn 20 pounds

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Some opt to surgically suction it out of the body or zap it away with lasers. Others purchase pills and potions that promise to melt it away.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/01/2011 (4262 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some opt to surgically suction it out of the body or zap it away with lasers. Others purchase pills and potions that promise to melt it away.

Now there’s another supposed weapon in the battle against pudgy bellies, thighs and arms: The Cold.

It’s called CoolSculpting by Zeltiq. It’s a non-surgical technique in which fat is cooled to the point where it is eventually destroyed and eliminated by the liver. The company claims that in the process of cooling specific areas of fat, surrounding cells remain healthy and intact.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dr. Earl Minuk demonstrates Cool Sculpting, a fat-reducing cosmetic procedure that freezes fat.

A Zeltiq spokeswoman says the company does not disclose “proprietary” information such as how cold fat gets during a CoolSculpting session.

The CoolSculpting machine is large and comes with various attachments sized to fit various areas of the body.

A doctor, nurse or technician places an attachment on a particular area of the body and leaves it there for an hour.

“It’s sort of like a vacuum,” says Dr. Earl Minuk, the only physician in Manitoba to offer CoolSculpting. He’s already worked on several patients, including a physician. Tummies are among the most requested areas, he says.

“An hour later when you take the hand piece off, you actually have the skin of the body standing up. It looks like a big cone across the belly,” he says.

“And then you massage it right down. It’s kind of neat. It looks kind of weird when it comes out.”

CoolSculpting works on a principal called “cold panniculitis,” also nicknamed Popsicle panniculitis. It’s a documented scientific phenomenon observed when children who suck on Popsicles end up with indentations in the mouth after fat in the cheek is destroyed by the cold, says Minuk.

Using that principle, two Harvard doctors developed CoolSculpting and have backed up their technique with studies.

They claim that patients will see an average 20 per cent spot reduction of fat two months after treatment — without the dangers, downtime and cost of liposuction.

Minuk warns that CoolSculpting does not replace a healthy diet and exercise. Nor is it intended for people more than 20 or so pounds over their ideal body weight.

“(It’s for) people who are fit, work out — have little pouches in the tummy, they put their bra on and they’ve got bra fat, back fat,” he says. “We’re going to be doing thighs, as well.”

Winnipeg physical educator Barb Cajas says she worries that consumers who opt for this treatment still aren’t getting the message that regular exercise and a healthy diet are essential.

“I would still be concerned that people aren’t learning the lifestyle changes to maintain the fat loss,” says Cajas, owner of CORE Training and Therapy. “Post-surgery, what are you doing? This might be a waste of money.”

Winnipeg hairstylist and fitness competitor Sara Johnson, 32, recently completed a treatment on each of her “love handles”–the sides of her abdomen.

 

“I compete. For me to lose (them), I have to get incredibly lean and it’s just really hard on my body,” says the mother of three, who thought it was worth it to shell out the cash for her procedures.

Minuk charges about $1,600 per treatment.

Ken Gigliotti/ Winnipeg Free Press Kelly Fraser’s midsection undergoes Cool Sculpting treatment.

Was Johnson, who had a tummy tuck after her twins were born, nervous about the idea of freezing her fat?

“Oh yeah,” she says. “(I thought) was this a good idea? Is it going to work? Is it going to hurt?”

The fitness enthusiast says the procedure wasn’t too painful.

“When you’re done, when you switch sides because it’s so cold, it’s numb. So when the blood starts going back in there and you get the heat, then it hurts,” says Johnson, who was back at work the same day she had her two hour-long sessions of CoolSculpting. “It’s not excruciating, but it’s not comfortable.”

Minuk says some patients report an aching for weeks after the treatment. Other have reported mild bruising.

Health Canada approved CoolSculpting in August 2009. Minuk has offered it to his patients for about a month. Eleven doctors in Canada currently offer the procedure, according to the product Website. The device is also approved for use in the United States and Europe.

Minuk says people with circulatory problems that make them sensitive to the cold and people with blood-clotting issues should not opt for CoolSculpting.

And don’t expect cellulite to disappear, either.

“Cellulite is different. It’s actually fibrous bands in between the fat cells,” says Minuk. “It’s a lot more resistant.”

Johnson, who is 5-foot-11 and a size 5, says she can hardly wait until the results of her CoolSculpting procedure show up in a couple of months. She says she’s confident her love handles will disappear and that she won’t choose to get any more treatments.

“I’m just hoping I won’t have a reason to. It was just to help smooth that area out.”

 

Have an interesting story idea you’d like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca

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