Coolsculpting: The Science of Freezing Fat

Belly Fat Weight Loss Fat Freezing

CoolSculpting is an FDA-approved procedure that uses patented technology from the company Zeltiq. This technology is a commercialized form of non-invasive liposuction treatment referred to as Cryolipolysis. This treatment, often simply referred to as fat freezing, has been performed more than 650,000 times worldwide since its first use. Using technology such as CoolSculpting might sound absurd at first read but a closer look at the scientific research tells a different story.

The Science of Coolsculpting & Cryolipolysis

Cryolipolysis treatments are designed to help reduce areas of fat on the body. These types of cells are referred to as Adipose cells by Scientists and are the primary focus of fat freezing technologies like CoolSculpting. Cryolipolysis is one of several non-invasive body sculpting techniques used as an alternative to liposuction. Other popular treatments include radio-frequency therapy, low-level laser treatments and high-intensity focused ultrasound treatments. Among these therapies, Cryolipolysis is the oldest and most researched. There have been countless animal studies and also many human clinical trials to help describe the benefits of CoolSculpting and related treatments. In a 2014 research paper, a survey of all Cryolipolysis research was investigated to provide a summary the benefits. Researchers found that Cryolipolysis treatments like CoolSculpting are able to provide 86% of people a reduction in fat—with many seeing reductions as high as 25% [1].

Safe Alternative to Liposuction

Liposuction is the most popular form of plastic surgery but comes with serious risk. There have been many deaths from routine liposuction procedures in recent years even though it is regarded by the media as being quite casual in nature. Scientists believe the majority of these deaths are related to the anesthesia used during operation [2]. Past data shows that nearly 20 in every 100,000 patients suffer fatal complications during liposuction treatments. While .02% may seem like a low incidence rate, professionals within the field have voiced their concern that this number is unacceptable. In 2013 there were 363,912 reported liposuction procedures carried out. Carrying over the .02% mortality rate—that means in 2013 72 people died as a direct result from liposuction. If you are considering liposuction you may want to first consider the benefits of fat freezing technology such as CoolSculpting which offers clinically-verified results while being considered much safer. Fat-freezing is considered so safe that DIY coolsculpting has become quite popular in recent years. After considering CoolSculpting prices, many elect to go with more affordable fat freezing options.

Benefits of Fat Freezing

The Science of fat freezing describes very positive results with very minor side effects. Understanding how this approach works can help provide an accurate picture of what to expect. There are many CoolSculpting before and after photos floating around the Internet that exaggerate the truth. This is a common case with more expensive patented treatments which usually have greater incentive to exaggerate the truth. Overall, fat freezing treatments like CoolSculpting do show remarkable, clinically-verified, ability to reduce fat in safe and effective ways. Research shows that fat freezing techniques can reduce the thickness of fatty tissues as much as 80%! [3] This remarkable change in fat cell volume is explained by the ability of cold temperatures to kill fat cells while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. The process isn’t immediate, and can take up to 3 months to reveal the full results. CoolSculpting benefits are largely seen in comparison to the downsides and risks of liposuction. For example, fat freezing methods like CoolSculpting don’t require anesthesia, don’t involve surgical procedures, and can be done in the safety and comfort of your own home. To date, no one has died of complications related to CoolSculpting—which is something that can’t be said about liposuction.

Does Fat Freezing Really Work?

Years ago scientists noticed that children with a strong affinity towards Popsicles were often observed to have less fat in their cheeks. Upon further investigation these scientists realized that fat cells respond to cold temperatures much more dramatically than regular tissue. Cold temperatures can kill fat cells long before damages to other tissues like skin and muscle occur. CoolSculpting and other similar fat-freezing technologies aren’t regarded as substitutes for liposuction but rather less invasive alternatives. There are many cases where temperature-dependent methods of body sculpting aren’t effective. The best CoolSculpting targets are areas where tissue is somewhat loose and close to the surface. Deep fat cells aren’t able to be affected by freezing techniques—the cold temperatures needed to target them would damage healthy cells. Currently, the FDA has approved CoolSculpting procedures on areas of the body such as love handles, thighs, and belly fat. Additionally, many peer-reviewed Science has shown that other areas of the body such as the upper arms, back, and even butt can be targeted effectively with Cryolipolysis techniques [4]. Below, you’ll find an image showing the areas of the body currently able to be targeted by fat freezing techniques.  The areas highlighted in blue are those approved for treatment with CoolSculpting and those in purple are those that are often targeted, but still not fully-approved.

CoolSculpting Target Areas

Areas where fat freezing is most effective

Cost of CoolSculpting

As mentioned, CoolSculpting is the name used for the official Zeltiq-devolved Cryolipolysis procedure that is FDA-approved. This treatment involves the use of specialized equipment and must be administered by a licensed and trained medical professional, such as cosmetic surgeon. While these treatments might be less-costly than surgical procedures such as liposuction they still bear quite a financial impact for many. The cost of CoolSculpting can vary depending on what your concerns are, the amounts of required treatments, and the number of areas being treated. Generally speaking though, it is common for the official CoolSculpting procedure to cost as much as $4000. This hefty price tag has led to the development of other more affordable DIY coolsculpting type products.

Coolsculpting Side Effects

Fat-freezing techniques such as CoolSculpting are generally regarded as safe and having few side effects. Many reports indicate that DIY CoolSculpting by those with fat-freezing wraps has become a popular alternative. These methods offer a great way to ensure adequate pressure during the session. CoolSculpting works by causing fat cells to die an abrupt death. In the best of circumstances this will involve some discomfort, swelling, and inflammation in the area treated. As part of our bodies natural healing processes, many different actions take place to help repair damaged tissues and remove all the dead fat cells. This process generally takes up to 2 weeks to really get started, and up to 2-3 months to show the full benefits. It’s worth noting around the 2 week mark is where some people describe the late-onset pain associated with fat freezing. This is generally the period of time in which the body has started to actually remove the fat cells, and begins to quickly fade away. In some rare cases (one half of one percent), Cryolipolysis may cause a temporary increase in size of the treatment area [5]. There are some other side effects of CoolSculpting to be aware of as well, though all are minor in nature.

Is Fat Freezing For You?

Body shaping techniques such as CoolSculpting offer powerful results with little risk. These techniques aren’t possible for every circumstance and knowing what to expect can help better inform your decision to try them. Fat freezing does kill and remove fat cells but it shouldn’t be considered a weight loss method. The amount of weight removed during CoolSculpting isn’t enough to be considered an effective part of any weight loss program. Diet should play a huge consideration when considering fat freezing techniques as well. If you are still eating in such a way as to gain weight, fat freezing won’t be able to address the growth of new fat cells. Doctors generally agree that the ideal situation in which to use fat freezing are those where minimal results are desired in the shortest amount of time. For example, if you’re looking to get bikini ready for an upcoming beach trip—CoolSculpting would be a good fit. If you are trying to lose 50 pounds to help reduce the risk of diabetes—you need to work with a professional to develop an effective diet and exercise program for yourself.

Final Considerations

Fat freezing techniques such CoolSculpting can offer real, FDA-Approved, results for those looking to reduce fat in certain areas of the body. Sagging underarms, pooch bellies, and thick thighs are all types of issues that are effectively addressed through Cryolipolysis techniques. Coolsculpting results can take anywhere from two to three months to take full effect. During this time the body is repairing and removing dead fat cells and might cause some minor discomfort. Compared to liposuction, fat freezing is much safer, much more cost effective, and much more convenient. Noninvasive body sculpting is slowly becoming one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in the world, and fat freezing has been shown by science to be one of the most effective approaches out there.

References

  1. Ingargiola MJ, Motakef S, Chung MT, Vasconez HC, Sasaki GH. Cryolipolysis for Fat Reduction and Body Contouring: Safety and Efficacy of Current Treatment Paradigms. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2015;135(6):1581-1590. https://doi.org/10.1097/PRS.0000000000001236
  2. Rao RB, Ely SF, Hoffman RS. Deaths related to liposuction. N Engl J Med. 1999;340(19):1471-5. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199905133401904
  3. Nelson AA, Wasserman D, Avram MM. Cryolipolysis for reduction of excess adipose tissue. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2009;28(4):244-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sder.2009.11.004
  4. Krueger N, Mai SV, Luebberding S, Sadick NS. Cryolipolysis for noninvasive body contouring: clinical efficacy and patient satisfaction. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2014;7:201-205. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S44371
  5. Jalian HR, Avram MM, Garibyan L, Mihm MC, Anderson RR. Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia After Cryolipolysis. JAMA dermatology. 2014;150(3):317-319. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.8071