A cold way to burn off fat under the skin

Just a little bit around the bellybutton. That’s all Lisl Ewing wanted to lose.

Just a little bit around the bellybutton. That’s all Lisl Ewing wanted to lose.

She was well on her way, too, eating right and exercising regularly. But that persistent tummy fat didn’t want to budge. So the Naples, Fla. resident decided to try something else. Called “CoolSculpting,” the procedure promises to reduce persistent areas of fat through a process of controlled cooling.

“The alternative is to go under the knife, and this is a lot better solution,” said Ewing, 45.

Pieces of fat are suctioned between two plates, which then cool the fat to a temperature just above freezing. The freezing causes a natural death in the fat cells and, over a period of weeks and months, the body processes out the dead cells.

Results can be seen as early as a few weeks, although most patients peak around three or four months.

It’s especially effective for patients who want to lose four to six kilograms around their midsection or, like Ewing, are struggling to lose a few final pounds of exercise-resistant fat, explained Dr. Daniel I. Wasserman, of Riverchase Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Naples, Fla.

Of the fat that’s cooled, about 20 to 25 per cent is likely to be removed with each treatment, Wasserman said. Because the body processes out the fat, there are no known negative health effects.

“They’ve done blood tests during and throughout and they’ve found that your lipids don’t go up,” Wasserman said. The process received FDA approval in 2010.

CoolSculpting technology was pioneered as early as the 1970s, when scientists found that some children who ate Popsicles ended up with dimples in their cheeks.

That observation led to the discovery that cold can damage fat cells.

Riverchase Dermatology has been offering CoolSculpting at its downtown Naples office since August and began offering the procedure at its Fort Myers, Fla., office last month. About 200 to 300 clients have undergone the procedure since Riverchase began offering it, said Meghan Ahearn, patient coordinator.

Each treatment starts at $700, but the average cost is $1,400 and up.

Part of CoolSculpting’s appeal is that it’s nonsurgical, Ahearn explained.

The cooling process doesn’t harm the skin, she said.

“It doesn’t do any damage to the dermis,” Ahearn said.

Although the procedure is considered most effective for patients who want to lose four to six kilos, Ahearn said it’s also suitable for clients who want to shed more weight as well. She does caution that CoolSculpting, unlike a surgical procedure such as liposuction, is not a quick fix, since it takes time for the body to naturally process out the dead cells.

“This is not an overnight thing,” Ahearn said.

In addition to midsections, Ahearn has performed the procedure on all parts of the body, including arms and thighs. Each treatment takes one hour, and the patient can read or watch television during the procedure.

Some patients even fall asleep, she added.

After the fat has been frozen, there’s a short massage to break up the crystallized fat, and that may cause a bit of discomfort; Ewing likened it to pushing on a bruise. Post-procedure, the frozen fat returns to its normal appearance in about 11/2 hours.

Patients can resume their regular activity as soon as they would like. That’s another reason the procedure appeals to clients, Ahearn said. The day after her CoolSculpting treatment, Ewing went shopping and worked out.

She started noticing a change in her midsection three weeks after the procedure, and Ewing eventually went on to drop a couple of pant sizes. Not only has she noticed a change in the way she looks and her clothes fit, she’s more motivated to stick with her healthful habits, she said.

“With the exercise and eating right, it’s been a huge result,” Ewing said.