(DENVER) -- Liposuction helped more than 200,000 Americans get rid of excess fat in 2010 alone. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reported that it's the fourth-most popular cosmetic procedure. But new research suggests that the benefits of liposuction may go beyond the waistline.
A new study reports that patients who get liposuction not only shed pounds, but also may be lowering their risk of heart disease.
Researchers studied levels of cholesterol and "bad" fats called triglycerides in the blood of more than 300 patients who were undergoing liposuction. Patients who had elevated triglyceride levels before the procedure showed an average 43 percent reduction in their triglyceride levels after they had liposuction.
The patients showed no changes in their cholesterol levels, but researchers did find a post-liposuction reduction in counts of white blood cells, which are associated with heart attacks, obesity, strokes and high blood pressure.
The study was presented at ASPS's annual conference in Denver on Sunday.
"This is the first study we've ever had that has shown there are more beneficial effects to liposuction than just to someone's self-image," said Dr. Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon in Detroit. "And who wouldn't mind looking better and being healthier at the same time?"
But doctors don't think you should call a plastic surgeon just yet. The study was a small one, and doctors need more evidence that liposuction is effective in lowering the risk of heart disease before they recommend it to patients.
"What is shown is a lowering of triglycerides, and I think we have to stick with that," said Dr. Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "The link to a lower risk of heart disease is a longer stretch."
Dr. Cannon added that lower triglyceride levels may not necessarily make a person heart-healthy.
"While we think it is bad to have high triglycerides, the issue of whether lowering triglycerides actually lowers the risk of heart disease has not been shown," Dr. Cannon said, noting that some drugs that aimed to reduce heart disease risk by lowering triglycerides were not successful in clinical trials.
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