In research presented at the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) annual conference in Denver, patients who were treated with liposuction had significantly lower fasting triglyceride levels three months after their procedure.
They also had lower white blood cell counts.
"An earlier study found that liposuction had no effect on lipid levels, but it was limited by a very small sample size, only about 15 obese women, half of whom were diabetic.
I was expecting to affirm the null hypothesis, but in fact the results proved otherwise, although not with cholesterol but with triglycerides," said Dr Eric Swanson, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Leewood, Kansas.
His prospective study included 270 women and 52 men who underwent liposuction with or without abdominoplasty.
For patients treated with liposuction alone, the mean fasting triglyceride level decreased by 25.7%, from 151.86 mg/dL at baseline to 112.88 mg/dL three months after surgery (p < 0.001).
The proportion of patients with triglyceride levels above 150 mg/dL went from 36.8% before liposuction to 17.8% afterward.
Patients who had baseline triglyceride levels above 150 mg/dL had the greatest reductions; in that group of 56 patients, the mean reduction was 43% (p <0.001).
Patients treated with liposuction and abdominoplasty also showed a mean 11% reduction in white cell count (p < 0.001).
This was an accidental finding, according to Dr Swanson.
"I was looking mainly at haemoglobin levels to see the effect of blood loss during liposuction and how quickly patients regain their blood count and found that white counts were lower."
"This makes sense because fat cells produce inflammatory cytokines, which play a role in coronary heart disease," he said. "Basically, if you have a reduction in your body's fat stores, it's a good thing."
Another interesting message from this study is that subcutaneous fat appears to be just as harmful as visceral fat, Dr Swanson said.
"A fat cell is a fat cell. The nice thing is we can access the subcutaneous fat with liposuction," he said.
Commenting on this study, newly-elected ASPS president Dr Malcolm Z. Roth, from Albany Medical College in Albany, New York called it "an exciting beginning for further research".
He added: "This study shows that superficial fat actually has a very significant effect on triglyceride metabolism. Modifying the amount of subcutaneous fat may be a very significant contributory factor in improving people's health."
Dr Roth said it will be important to see if the results from this study can be replicated, and whether the reduction in triglyceride levels persists in the long term.
(Reuters Health, Fran Lowry, September 2011)