Fat Treatment: The Thick and the Thin of It

Author: Dr. Janna Bentley is a cosmetic medical doctor and owner/founder of Lakeshore Vein & Aesthetics Clinic

Here’s the skinny on body shaping.

The demand for non-invasive treatments to reduce fat and cellulite has increased dramatically in the past few years. And so has the hype, which is why Google bans advertisers with claims that are too good to be true – and Facebook doesn’t permit before and after photos in ads!

So what really works? Here’s a quick overview of how to separate the ‘fake news’ from treatments with evidence of success. And by evidence I mean “the scientific method” versus by claims (regardless of the marketing or hype behind the stories).


EXERCISE and DIET: Following a healthy diet and regular exercise is beneficial for almost every aspect of healthy living. So “Just do it.” This often doesn’t do it however… read on.

CREAMS: Many creams claim to treat cellulite and fat but there’s little-to-no evidence. The best ones seem to be those with caffeine or theophylline – ‘though most studies are not in agreement. Interestingly, expensive ones don’t seem to be better. So, the answer about “fat burning cream” or “cellulite melting ointment” is NO… simply not supported by evidence.

HERBAL MEDICATIONS:  There is no herb or vitamin that has shown to be effective on cellulite or fat reduction. “Weight loss pills” are such a captivating idea… but this “magic pill” does not exist according to evidence.

ENDERMOLOGIE: This treatment uses a device that suctions and “kneads” the skin. Some studies show a positive response. There are no dangerous side effects to this treatment, but many treatment are required (like 15 – 18) and then monthly maintenance. Each treatment session takes roughly an hour and costs >$100.

MESOTHERAPY: This involves the injection of a mix of homeopathic medications that supposedly break down fat. Some do BUT some don’t. There is no Health Canada approval, no standardized solutions, and insufficient evidence regarding safety and efficacy. Down side may include swelling, bruising, pain, as yet unknown long term effects of the treatment… and treatment cost is from low to high.

LIPOSUCTION: This is done on the fat in the deeper reserve layers of the skin and not in the subcutaneous layer. It can effectively contour the body, but one should not expect it to vastly improve the appearance of cellulite. Effective, but due to cost – not to mention surgery and risk – it is less popular than the non-surgical treatments.

NEW TYPES OF TREATMENT: Effective and No Surgery

Radio Frequency (RF) itself is not new – but its use in non-invasive skin tightening, cellulite reduction and circumferential fat reduction are exciting. (A few common devices are VenusFreeze or BodyTite.) RF energy penetrates the skin and underlying fatty tissue quickly and safely – and heats it up. The super-heated fat cells are then naturally purged over the next 3 to 6 weeks. Treatments are quick (it can be done over a lunch), and patients feel a comfortable-yet-hot sensation. 4 to 6 treatments are typically required, and a typical package for 6 treatments is ~$1500.

Another interesting treatment/device is marketed as CoolSculpting. This targets a larger section of fat (compared to RF above), and gently cools the unwanted fat cells to induce a controlled elimination of fat cells. This reduces bulges in treated areas of the body without harming surrounding tissue. At least several treatments are required, but results are often visible after 3 to 6 weeks. A typical “bye bye belly” package (4 treatments, aka “cycles”) starts at ~$2250. Full disclosure: this is the device we have and I can gladly state that patients are usually very happy with the reduction in their “spare tire” or other unwanted bulges! (Alternatives to CoolSculpting exist, though not as popular, and target fat cells with energy like RF or laser, such as SculpSure™.)

Finally, Belkyra (called Kybella in the US) is the only Health Canada- and FDA-approved injectable treatment for fat, and currently only approved for the chin area (aka “double chin” or submental fullness). Belkyra is deoxycholic acid, which works by dissolving fat. Belkyra is effective in our experience and requires an investment of $1100 (or more) for 2 to 4 treatments. Plan for some swelling and discomfort that subsides after several days. However, happy patients are willing to forego a few days for their jawline from 10 years ago!

Here’s The Skinny

A review of scientific literature, supported by our experience, conclude that none of the treatments have been shown to be a “cure” for cellulite. And there is no fat melting ointment, sorry! However, there are several effective non-surgical fat therapies that, after several treatments, and within several weeks, show good results.

Author: Dr. Janna Bentley is a cosmetic medical doctor and owner/founder of Lakeshore Vein & Aesthetics Clinic

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