CHICAGO — Belly fat is typically the hardest body area to tone down, and while good old fashioned exercise and healthy eating is still probably the best way to attain your ideal body, a new non-invasive medical procedure could eventually enter the market.
Carbon dioxide gas injections, or carboxytherapy, displayed the ability to reduce belly fat after undergoing its first randomized, controlled trial at Northwestern University. However, the fat reductions were not substantial and did not seem to last long-term.
“Carboxytherapy could potentially be a new and effective means of fat reduction,” explains lead author Dr. Murad Alam, a physician at Northwestern Medicine and the vice chair of dermatology at the university’s medical school, in a statement. “It still needs to be optimized, though, so it’s long lasting.”
According to Dr. Alam, this new technique will be appealing to those looking for alternative weight loss methods because it involves a safe, inexpensive gas. Additionally, it is non-invasive, a quality that is becoming increasingly sought-after by patients.
The gas is simply injected into fat pockets, which means less downtime and scarring for patients.
The procedure has been tested before outside of the United States in non-controlled studies, with most of the previous research indicating that it can provide lasting improvement in abdominal contours. Interestingly, researchers say they still don’t fully understand how it all works, but the carbon dioxide is believed to cause changes in microcirculation which in turn damages fat cells.
Dr. Alam and his team studied 16 adults who were not overweight for five weeks. Each participant was administered weekly carboxytherapy injections on one side of their abdomens, and a placebo treatment on the other side. Using high-resolution ultrasound, the researchers found a reduction in superficial fat after stopping the injections, but this result had disappeared by 28 weeks. It’s worth noting that each participant’s overall body weight did not change during the course of the study.
Researchers say their findings likely mean that the procedure caused a temporary metabolic disruption in fat cells, but did not actually induce cellular death.
“If carboxytherapy can provide prolonged benefits, it offers patients yet another noninvasive option for fat reduction,” Alam says. “But we don’t feel it’s ready for prime time.”