Several studies have been conducted to evaluate long-term liposuction results. In this procedure, the unwanted fats—specifically the subcutaneous fat found beneath the skin—are suctioned out with the use of a flexible tube called cannula.
Some studies have suggested grim findings: After about a year all the benefits of liposuction were gone.
Nevertheless, several studies have also shown that good old-fashioned exercise can preserve liposuction results and prevent patients from regaining fats elsewhere in their body (i.e., areas not treated by the surgery). Of course, physical activities must always be complemented by superb diet, which is an equally critical aspect of long-term weight management.
To shed light on the long-term results of liposuction, a team of Brazilian researchers conducted a study in which 36 healthy but inactive women aged between 20 and 35 had undergone the surgery.
These non-obese participants had 2.5-3 lbs. of abdominal fat removed through liposuction. Afterwards, they were divided into two groups: half were asked to stick to their old habits, while the other half were required to follow a moderate exercise routine.
By six months after liposuction, the first group had regained all the fats previously removed by surgery. And not only that, they developed additional visceral fat—or fat deposition in organs such as the liver and intestines—and thus predisposed them to increased risk of insulin resistance (diabetes), inflammation, and a wide range of health problems.
The uptick in the percentage of visceral fat was notable—about 10 percent more compared to their pre-surgery level.
However, the participants who were asked to perform moderate exercise for four months did not regain fat and even achieve additional health benefits. (Note: The exercise regimen was “doable”—an hour of cardio and weight lifting three times a week.)
Furthermore, the women included in the “exercise group” have improved insulin sensitivity and physical fitness.
The researchers have concluded that exercise can prevent the body from [over] compensating for the abrupt change in the fat composition and distribution caused by liposuction. It is believed that the body has a strong predisposition to defend its fat stores, and a sedentary lifestyle can aggravate this propensity.
Meanwhile, separate studies have suggested that a sedentary/poor lifestyle after liposuction may cause the patients to regain fats in other parts of their body not treated by liposuction, which of course could lead to a disproportionate appearance.
The liposuctioned areas, meanwhile, were less likely to regain fat unless in the event of significant weight gain (i.e., more than 20 lbs.)
With these findings, Dr. Tarick Smiley, a board-certified plastic surgeon who has performed over 9,000 liposuctions, says the long-term success of surgery will always boil down to patient’s commitment to healthy lifestyle.