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The French Way to Lose Weight

Mesotherapy is widely practiced in France as a weight-loss technique, but it hasn't caught on in the U.S. And some doctors are glad about that.

WebMD Feature

It should come as no surprise that France, land of l'amour, has come up with a way to give us the svelte, sexy bodies we crave. But even if you can afford it (it's not cheap and it's not covered by insurance), is it something you should consider? Like many therapies that loosely come under the heading of "alternative medicine," it all depends on whom you ask.

The French-imported medical technique that's all the buzz these days is called mesotherapy. Developed in 1952 in France by Dr. Michel Pistor, originally for the treatment of vascular and infectious diseases, sports injuries, and the improvement of circulation, the technique involves the injection of small amounts of various medications into the mesoderm, the layer of fat and connective tissue under the skin. The theory is that when these small amounts of medication are injected into the mesoderm, underlying fat is melted.

Since 1952, approximately 15,000 doctors in France and South America have been using mesotherapy, and now doctors in the U.S. are rapidly jumping on the bandwagon. In August, about 40 doctors attended the first intensive course in mesotherapy offered in the U.S. Prior to this course, presented by the International Society of Mesotherapy and the Pan American Mesotherapy Society, doctors had to travel to France to be trained.

"Spectacular" Results

One of those who did just that is Marion Shapiro, DO, a former emergency room doctor who is the director of Mesotherapy Associates PC in New York City and West Orange, N.J. Since opening her practice last year, Shapiro sees approximately 150 patients a week. Mesotherapy doesn't work in approximately 5% of patients, says Shapiro, but in the other 95%, "the results are spectacular."

Patients come to Shapiro seeking a quick fix for cellulite, spot weight reduction, or overall weight loss. The compounds injected depend upon what Shapiro is trying to treat -- i.e. cellulite vs. fat -- but generally include a combination of medications such as aminophylline and Novocain and plant extracts and vitamins. The compounds injected are all FDA-approved for their original use, says Shapiro. But they have not been approved specifically for mesotherapy.

According to Shapiro, mesotherapy can be used to treat everyone, from obese people who need treatment on the trunk, abdomen, buttocks, arms, and legs, as well as those who are generally thin but frustrated at dealing with stubborn fatty areas such as saddlebags or love handles. After the fat is melted, it is naturally excreted. Unlike endermologie, a noninvasive technique of treating cellulite, mesotherapy is permanent, says Shapiro, provided the patient doesn't gain the weight back. In order to facilitate more rapid results for her patients and help them keep the weight off in the future, Shapiro gives each of her patients what she calls a "Meso Meal Plan."

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