Zap that fat: Can lasers make you slimmer in minutes?

By | January 25, 2010

Gone in minutes (Image: Chris Hackett)  … I am visiting Harley Fit, one of a string of new companies that promise to transform your waistline in your lunch break. My visit is the culmination of a journey that began when a press release landed on my desk boasting a treatment that could make me “7 inches thinner in 20 minutes”.

It sounded too good to be true. Yet thousands of people have attended one of the hundreds of clinics around the world that offer the treatment, and scores of reviews in lifestyle magazines speak of results that are “nothing short of amazing”. At around £250 per treatment it doesn’t come cheap, but with the diet industry estimated to turn over tens of billions of dollars every year in the US alone, the appetite for a quick fix is clearly there.

Praise from customers is one thing, but independent scientific evidence corroborating the claims is harder to find. So while the promise of being able to lose inches in minutes is undeniably amazing, does the technique really work, or are people parting with their cash for a snake-oil treatment? And more importantly, is it safe?

After months of research, which involved reading several studies of the technology and questioning experts in the field, I am satisfied that I am not putting my life at risk, so I’ve come to the clinic to try the procedure for myself. To be honest, now that I’m here I’m having second thoughts. To complement “WowFatZap”, the inch-loss treatment that I’m receiving, Harley Fit also offers “WowSlimChoc”, a chocolate bar that promises to help you lose weight in one week, and the rather daunting “WowWilly”, a “medically proven permanent expansion device” which promises: “once stretched, is everlastingly expanded”. It feels like I’ve walked into the real-world equivalent of a spam email.

Despite all this, curiosity has got the better of me. If nothing else, my research revealed that getting rid of fat by zapping it with lasers is based on a scientifically plausible idea. The treatment is a form of non-invasive, laser-assisted fat-removal, or lipolysis. In 2001 Rodrigo Neira, a plastic surgeon at Red Deer Regional Hospital in Alberta, Canada, shone a laser at cultured fat cells, and found that this emulsified the targeted tissue. He presented his results later that year at the second South American Congress on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Lima, Peru. …

“At this stage it is really not possible to judge what will happen with the technology,” Thomas adds. “Its effects appear to be relatively short-lived and the big problem in obesity is fat regain, so this would likely still be an issue for anyone using it as a means to reduce weight.”

According to Harley Fit I lost two-and-a-half inches (more than 60 millimetres) from around my hips and stomach after one 20-minute session. Would I go again? There are still unanswered questions over how the body deals with the released fat, and how much extra it can cope with. I would want these questions answered before returning for the treatment week after week.

“It may well be a decent alternative to liposuction which is perfectly acceptable as a cosmetic procedure, but does nothing to improve health,” says David Haslam, an obesity specialist at the Centre for Obesity Research at Luton and Dunstable Hospital, and chair of the UK National Obesity Forum. “Individuals who undergo treatment should be aware that diet and physical activity are the cornerstones, and the best way to make a long-lasting improvement in health and appearance.”via Zap that fat: Can lasers make you slimmer in minutes? – health – 22 January 2010 – New Scientist.

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