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Lovelle Plastic Surgery blog: Not all fat is bad

NMC Health Medical Center in Newton Ks entrance with yellow bar hospital and glass panel front entrance newton medical center

Fat – Friend or Foe? Part 1

By Susan Lovelle, MD
Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

As you may already know, the best candidates for plastic surgery are those who are already living a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, and want to look and feel their best. This is a good thing, because while plastic surgery can do a lot of things, it cannot guarantee dramatic weight-loss, remove dangerous visceral fat that surrounds the organs, or consistently alter or improve blood chemistries such as cholesterol or triglycerides. What it can do is help you achieve your aesthetic goals while you are on your way to a healthier body and future.

If you have made large gains in weight-loss – or if this is on your 2015 list of resolutions – removing excess skin and fat afterwards can help you fully appreciate your new body and shape. Likewise, if you have had children or aging has emphasized areas that always carried a bit of extra weight, you can tighten and re-contour areas to help motivate you to stay in shape. Now more than ever, there are surgical, nonsurgical, and minimally invasive ways to deal with that pesky fat.

Not all fat is bad

Fat is not a bad thing – in fact, we need it to function normally. Our brains depend on it for proper functioning. Fat stores excess calories in our body so we can easily access them when we deplete our immediate stores. It releases hormones that control metabolism and keeps us warm. However, like many other things, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Not All Fat is the Same

The worst fat out there is visceral fat. This is the type of fat that wraps around the organs and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other illnesses. Subcutaneous fat has two layers – superficial and deep – and is found directly under the skin. This subcutaneous fat generally has fewer health implications than visceral. Liposuction breaks up and removes deep subcutaneous fat, usually avoiding the superficial layer of fat to prevent damaging the skin.

Location, location, location

The tell-tale sign of having too much visceral fat is a large abdomen – that’s why those with an “apple shape” are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. The only way to rid yourself of this dangerous form of fat is through diet and exercise. Those who are “pear shaped” are luckier in that respect, since the deep subcutaneous fat around the buttocks and thighs can be treated effectively using liposuction.

As mentioned above, exercise and a healthy diet can help reduce both types of fat and increase health; unfortunately, many people have at least one area where the fat is stubbornly resistant. Men may have excess deposits in their chest (gynecomastia), waist area, and buttocks. Women will usually carry extra fat in their breasts, hips, waist and thighs. While there are evolutionary reasons for these (and I won’t go into them here!), liposuction or other methods of non-invasive fat reduction can manage these areas.

Note that smaller areas such as the neck, upper arms, and lower legs can also be well managed by these modalities. Stay tuned for part 2 in next month’s newsletter discussing treatment options for fat reduction.

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