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Popsicle Panniculitis and Cold Therapies ---
Can They Really Melt Fat?


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September 12, 2015

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors,
Nurses , Certified trainers and other members of our Editorial

It’s the answer to your weight loss prayers – a simple session
of cold therapy “freezes” away fat. No more need for dieting.
No restrictive exercise regimes – and no need for the surgeon’s

Cryolipolysis, otherwise known as cold therapy or fat freezing,
promises to spot-reduce stubborn fat on your belly, thighs, and
waist. But is fat freezing too good to be true? Does cold therapy
really work for fat loss? Could strapping on an ice pack for half
an hour really rid you of those stubborn fat patches?

Popsicle Panniculitis and Fat Loss - The Links

Scientists have long known that ice helps relieve inflammation
and stop swelling. But since researchers also began to notice
that cold-induced panniculitis seemed to selectively target fat
tissue and leave water-based tissue alone, the use of cold for
fat loss became a possibility, according to a 2013 study from the
Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General
Hospital. Panniculitis is a group of diseases characterized by the
inflammation of the fatty layer beneath the skin’s surface.

Cold- induced panniculitis is also called popsicle panniculitis
after the condition was first found, by E Epstein and M Oren in
1970. These scientists noticed a funny thing. Children who suck
ice or popsicles sometimes developed a rash on their cheeks.

After the rash disappeared, so did the fat. Later on in life these
children would develop dimples where the rash once had been.

Studies suggest that applying ice-cold packs or a cold probe to
fatty areas could burn away fat in those places without
damaging the surrounding skin.

How Does Cold Therapy Work for Fat Loss?

No one is entirely sure how fat freezing works, but experts have
come up with some compelling theories.

One is that you have two basic types of fat tissue. White fat is
the fat you don’t particularly want – the fat that makes your
butt large and your stomach flabby.

On the other hand, brown fat is used by the body as fuel. Your
body burns brown fat and therefore calories. A cold compress
works by turning the white fat into brown fat, which is burned
away to generate heat.

Therefore, according to researchers at the University of
Kentucky School of Medicine, you lower your levels of white fat
and therefore your total fat content.

Here's another theory behind cold therapies. A 2009 review
from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston shows that fat
freezing works by possibly increasing inflammation, which
supercharges the number of immune cells at the site of the cold,
which results in the death of fatty cells. The researchers say
that “although the mechanism of action for cryolipolysis is not
yet completely understood” the procedure is demonstrated
effective and safe.

Do Cold Therapies Work for Weight Loss?

The cold fat loss regime is a relatively new invention. The
treatment was first tested on pigs. A 2009 study by the
University of Minnesota Medical School looked at the effect of
"cryolipolysis", and found that treatments resulted in a fat
reduction in the upper fat layer of 40 percent in three and a half
months, without damage to the pigs’ skin.

In addition, a clinical study carried out by NYU School of
Medicine in 2009 after the pig research concluded that the
upper fat layer reduced by 20.4 percent after two months in the
human volunteers, without skin damage.

A 2009 study from UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles found that
love handles were reduced by 25 percent and all patients lost
back fat in a four-month trial of fat freezing technology.

And a 2012 study by the Second University of Naples, Italy
found that the thickness of fat tissue significantly reduced fat
layers through the programed cell death of fatty cells.

And as fat thickness declined, circulation improved which
resulted in a significant improvement in the appearance of

Dangers of Frostbite, Burns and More?

But like so many fat loss techniques, the reality may not exactly
match up to the hype.

Medical experts are worried that cryolipolysis could cause burns
and other serious problems. Patients are at risk of burns similar
to frostbite if the procedure is not carried out correctly.

And another fear is that the procedure, where the body is
supposed to re-absorb the excess fat naturally, actually ends up
storing waste products in the body, which contributes to liver
problems resulting in fatigue and ill health.

However, the FDA has approved fat freezing devices for
abdominal fat destruction and also reducing the fat layers in the
flank and waist.

Several studies, including a 2009 report from UCLA Medical
Center, Los Angeles, have observed no build-up of fat or waste
in the blood using the procedure, and a 2009 study from
Endpoint LLC, Bainbridge Island, Washington found
cryolipolysis did not affect liver function or quality.

How about the risk for skin burns? A 2009 study from NYU
School of Medicine found that 66 percent of the patients
experienced skin numbness but this went away within four
weeks of the procedure and no other signs of skin damage
were found. So long as the procedure is carried out by a
professional, it seems the risk of burns is low.

Of course, it goes without saying that a healthy diet and
exercise regime will be significantly cheaper than the sessions
you need to freeze fat, even considering your gym membership

You need multiple cryolipolysis sessions to get rid of fat, and
each session costs upwards of $600.

Moreover, cryolipolysis is not meant for everyone.  The
procedure is not designed for seriously obese or overweight
people and is instead targeted at those with small patches of
stubborn fat, and areas where fat could be removed to
streamline the figure.

Plus, the technology and the methodology has simply not been
tested enough in order to justify everyone jumping on the
bandwagon and spending their hard-earned cash on this

Shivering Helps You Lose Weight

If you want to lose fat in the cold, why not try simply turning
the heating down?

According to a 2014 study from the NIH’s National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), shivering
– like exercise – triggers hormones that stimulate the burning of
brown fat cells for energy. Participants in the study
demonstrated increased energy expenditure when their bodies
were cooled with thermo-blankets.

And researchers in 2014 at Maastricht University Medical Center
in The Netherlands suggest turning down the heating on a
frequent basis to experience mild cold, which leads to expanded
energy expenditure and better fat burning. After spending six
hours a day in the cold, people in the study increased their
brown fat, and eventually got used to the cold and felt more

It’s certainly worth a try – lowering the temperature may
benefit your waistline and it will certainly lower your energy
bills. But when it comes to shelling out for a fat freezing
procedure, evidence suggests it may work but it won’t be the
automatic answer to your weight loss problems.


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