THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that liposuction -- which plastic surgeons often use to sculpt the bodies of people who aren't extremely overweight -- can lower levels of a type of blood fat called triglycerides.
"High triglyceride levels are known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease," study author Dr. Eric Swanson, a plastic surgeon, said in a news release from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "The decrease in these levels after liposuction was surprisingly dramatic, and revealed that the permanent removal of excess fat cells by liposuction has a major impact on circulating levels of triglycerides."
The research doesn't definitively prove that liposuction caused levels to drop, however, and an outside researcher questioned the value of the study.
The study looked at 270 women and 52 men who underwent either liposuction, a tummy tuck (known as an abdominoplasty), or both. On average, the patients were slightly overweight, although they ranged from nearly underweight to morbidly obese.
The patients underwent fasting blood tests before surgery, one month afterward, and again three months afterward. At three months after surgery, triglyceride levels dropped from an average of 151.8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) to 112.8 mg/dL in patients who underwent liposuction alone, representing a decrease of 25.7 percent; they fell by 43 percent in those with levels considered to be "at risk" -- that is, 150 mg/dL or more.
Levels of white blood cells also dipped after liposuction and in patients who had both procedures. (High white blood cell counts are linked with an increased level of inflammation within the body and have been associated with coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.) Levels of cholesterol and blood sugar didn't change significantly.
Commenting on the study, University of Colorado researcher Rachael Van Pelt, who has studied the after-effects of liposuction, said the findings are "virtually meaningless" because triglyceride levels vary from day to day, and the researchers didn't include a control group.
In addition, "changes in lifestyle (diet and exercise) over time would have profound effects on serum triglycerides, so without knowing how this changed over time in these surgery patients, one can't attribute any improvements to the surgery per se," said Van Pelt, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The study is slated for presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Denver. The findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about liposuction, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
-- Randy Dotinga
SOURCES: Rachael Van Pelt, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, division of geriatrics, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colo.; American Society of Plastic Surgeons, news release, Sept. 22, 2011
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