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Five Fat Facts

By: Elliot Jacobs, MD

Fat is not as simple a topic as it may sound. We find that patients who consult us in New York about liposuction often need a short primer on the behavior and function of this enigmatic body tissue.

Whether you are considering liposuction or another procedure to shape your body, understanding the nature of fat will help you know what a cosmetic surgeon can—and can’t—do for you. Here are the basic fat facts.

  • Your body fat is uniquely your own. The fat cells you have are with you from birth, and your genes determine their pattern of distribution. If you’ve observed that some women carry much of their extra weight in saddlebags, some have extra flabby arms and so on, you’re seeing genetics at work. There are also differences in the way men and women carry fat. Men tend to store fat around their abdomen and chest, while women’s fat cells are more widely distributed through the thighs, buttocks, tummy and breasts.
  • Fat is not necessarily a bad thing. Fat is not 100% bad! Fat cells store energy, help insulate our bodies, cushion our organs and produce some hormones. Fat makes up the majority of tissue within women’s breasts, providing a protective cushion for milk ducts.
    Fat is even enjoying a bit of the limelight these days. There are lots of adult stem cells in fat, and efforts are underway to concentrate these stem cells for use in other parts of the body. Already, fat injections containing stem cells are recognized as helping to improve the quality and texture of the overlying skin, including burn scars, radiation injury, and so on. There is a huge horizon for stem cells, which means liposuction may prove doubly beneficial: creating better body contours and providing stem cells for health or reconstructive purposes.
    There is some fat doctors will tell you is especially problematic, however. Excess visceral fat—meaning fat located deep within the abdominal cavity—is a health risk. It can wrap around vital organs and decrease their function. It also happens to be fat that is not a target for liposuction. If you have an abundance of this type of fat, you would be well advised to lose weight for the sake of your health as well as your appearance.
  • Fat cells expand and shrink. You might think that your fat cells increase or decrease in number when your weight changes, but that’s generally not true. The fat cells you’re born with simply grow and shrink. That’s why the old notion of “spot reducing” was never valid. Exercising a particular body part can help tone muscles and increase flexibility, but it won’t banish or shrink fat cells in the area.
  • Fat can be quite stubborn. Many people have fat deposits that do not respond to efforts to get rid of them. The fact is that once fat cells become enlarged in certain areas — such as love handles — it can be very difficult to get them to change
  • Liposuction eliminates fat cells for good. When you learn a bit about the behavior of fat, it’s easy to see why liposuction is the number one procedure for men and number two for women, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Liposuction removes fat cells and they do not come back.
    Be advised that no plastic surgeon will remove all fat cells even from your target areas, however. Experienced liposuction surgeons know just how to leave a smooth, even layer of fat to give you nice contours. Should you overeat in the future, those cells can enlarge.

Now that you know more about how fat cells work, you might feel a bit more informed about what you can expect from liposuction. So what’s the next step?

Whether you live across the country or near us in New York, an expert should perform your liposuction procedure to ensure an excellent outcome and the utmost in safety. Seek a board certified plastic surgeon who performs hundreds of body contouring procedures each year and you will be in good hands.


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