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Study Looks at Whether Liposuction Has an Anti-Diabetes Bonus

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In that initial study, Giese removed "an average of 12 pounds of subcutaneous fat from 14 healthy, overweight premenopausal women, half of whom had some level of insulin resistance" as shown by high insulin levels in the blood. Six weeks later, each "was down one to 2 clothing sizes -- a loss of about 12 pounds and 12 inches" -- and had less insulin resistance.

At the annual ASPS meeting in October, Giese will present data showing that in 75% of the women, "all the four-month findings -- weight, blood pressure decreases, and improved insulin resistance -- were maintained at one year."

Giese is not sure how the surgery helps, but whatever the cause, liposuction "is changing insulin metabolism," she says. And that's why the government "is throwing money at [the research] and endocrinologists are going crazy for it," she says. "Not even a pill can improve insulin resistance like the liposuction does."

He may not be going crazy for it, but Mayo Clinic endocrinology consultant and American Diabetes Association past president Bruce Zimmerman, MD, does "think the premise is interesting." After reviewing the study's design for WebMD, he agrees that the idea, although a bit strange, may just be scientifically valid.

"The association between body fat and type 2 diabetes is strong," he tells WebMD, although several studies suggest that visceral fat -- that stored within the body cavity, rather than the under-the-skin type removed in liposuction -- is the crucial factor. "I wouldn't expect liposuction to have any effect on visceral fat, so it will be interesting to see if the [type of] fat that is removed makes any difference in insulin resistance and [disease] development."

Under-the-skin, or subcutaneous, fat has not been implicated in diabetes before, says Giese, because before large-volume liposuction was available, there was no way to remove large amounts of this type of fat and study the effects. The upcoming study "will tell us how subcutaneous fat acts in the development of insulin resistance, which will give us clues about the development, prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes," she tells WebMD.

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