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Study Shows Fat Removed by Liposuction Returns to Other Places

By HERWriter
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Liposuction related image Photo: Getty Images

Liposuction, which has been around since 1974, has been offered as an alternative to women who either want fat removed from a particular part of their body or who have dieted to their ideal weight but still carry more in areas such as their thighs or the “saddlebag” zone. There are over 450,000 procedures performed a year “each costing a few thousand dollars”, according to the New York Times.

Search liposuction information websites and you can read familiar responses to questions about whether fat removal is permanent. They typically say that fat cells removed by liposuction are permanently removed. Fat cells that are still present at the liposuction area can grow larger but no new ones will form. Generalized weight gain will evenly distributes itself proportionately all over your new body layout.

However, a new study from University of Colorado by Drs. Teri L Hernadez and Robert H. Eckel has disproved the concept that fat removed by liposuction is truly gone. It may be gone from the site it was removed from but the body, seeking its normal balance, will replace those lost fat cells in other places.

The study, published in the latest issue of “Obesity”, tested 32 non-obese women--14 had liposuction and 18 women acted as the control group but did not have liposuction performed. The women who were used as the controls were offered an opportunity to have liposuction performed after the study was completed if they still wanted it at a discount. All the women were instructed to maintain their current lifestyle throughout the study.

The researchers took measurements at six weeks, six months and at one year of the percent of fat each group had lost. They found that initially the liposuction women had lost 2.1 percent of their fat while the control group only lost .28 percent. However, at the end of the year there was no significant difference between the two groups. It was determined that the liposuction women had regained their lost thigh fat but it had reappeared instead--mainly in their abdomen with lesser amounts in the upper arms and shoulders.

So, the explanation that liposuction permanently removes fat is only partially correct. True, the fat cells are gone from the site they were removed and do not re-grow however, the body compensates by just making new fat cells in a new location. It is thought that the reason the fat cells cannot return to the original liposuctioned area is due to the fact that the fishnet structure the fat was secured in had been disrupted by the action of the procedure.

Even with this new information, it is unlikely that women will suddenly start turning away from liposuction. Overall, the women in the test group were happy with their new liposuctioned bodies and despite knowing the results of the study, most of the control group women still opted to have their liposuctions performed afterwards.


Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s health care and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment4 Comments


I agree that one cannot make an absolute assumption based on this one study how women regain weight and this was not a large study, only 32 women. However, apparently, this concept hadn't really been studied before so this were the results when a group tried to evaluate whether it was true. Clearly, they will need more studies to determine if there are any other factors that are contributing to weight gain after liposuction.

June 8, 2011 - 4:18am

While the study provides a lot of compelling evidence, a number of board-certified plastic surgeons on RealSelf.com disagree what it claims

June 7, 2011 - 4:06pm

No matter how safe liposuction cosmetic surgery is, you do have to remember that it is an invasive procedure that entails risks and complications.

April 21, 2013 - 11:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

While I know this story got a lot of buzz, the fact that fat will reemerge after lipo is not a new concept. The body is built to store a certain amount of fat, and by killing the fat cells (which is what happens during liposuction) you are forcing the fat to find news areas in the body to live, often causing further health problems. This is why non-invasive procedures such as Zerona have gained in popularity because they keeps the cells in tact.

May 9, 2011 - 12:10pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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