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The science behind fat freezing: Here's how it works

And, alternative treatments you could consider instead.

Does Fat Freezing Work? | Juniper

If you're on a weight loss journey, you might have heard of a thing called fat freezing. As the name suggests, fat-freezing treatment targets the fat cells in your body and aims to reduce body fat.

But before you consider this fat reduction treatment, it's important to understand how it works, the potential risks and what alternative treatments you could consider instead.

What is fat freezing?

Ever wondered if there's a way to bid farewell to those stubborn fat cells without surgery? That's where the body sculpting procedure Cryolipolysis (a.k.a fat freezing treatments) steps in [1].

This non-surgical fat reduction technique uses cold temperatures to target and reduce excess fat cells. The treatment focuses on subcutaneous fat, which can be hard to shake through diet and exercise efforts alone. And yes, this treatment does essentially kill fat cells.

During the procedure, a specific body area is gently cooled, generally taking about an hour to complete. This is then followed by a brief massage to aid the breakdown of dead fat cells. Fat-freezing treatments are often used as a safer and less invasive alternative to surgical procedures like liposuction.

Remember, though, that fat freezing addresses fat loss, not weight loss [2]. It's designed for individuals within a healthy weight range who are seeking a tailored solution to those persistent pockets of fat.

Does fat-freezing work?

Research suggests that fat-freezing treatments are a generally safe and effective fat removal method with the added benefit of little to no recovery time like surgery. This procedure specifically addresses localised fat, which is ideal for those close to their ideal weight with stubborn fat.

The process uses cold temperatures to target fat deposits in certain body areas and could potentially reduce body fat by 20-80% [3]. Plus, studies suggest that results could appear in just 3 weeks, peaking around 3 months post-treatment [4].

Clinical studies also show an average of 10-25% fat reduction per session, with no body-wide side effects [2]. However, it's not a weight loss tool, but rather a targeted fat cell treatment that should be supported with a healthy diet and exercise routine.

It's also important to note that fat-freezing treatments might not suit anyone with substantial weight loss targets. That's because fat freezing zeroes in on targeted fat cells in certain body areas for those wanting to refine specific areas, working alongside an already established healthy lifestyle.

What is the recovery time?

When it comes to the recovery time after fat freezing, you're in for a pleasant surprise — it's minimal.

After the targeted area has been treated and the applicator is removed, a brief 2-3 minute massage aids in the breakdown of fat cells. Sure, you might notice a bit of redness or swelling in the treated area for a few hours but most people can resume their normal activities immediately after the treatment.

During the procedure, some people might experience mild discomfort, tingling, stinging, aching, or cramping. However, these sensations generally subside within 5-10 minutes as the area becomes numb during the cooling down process.

Remember, fat freezing is best suited for those within the normal weight range who are dealing with stubborn, pinchable fat that's resistant to diet and exercise.

How many fat-freezing sessions do you need?

Thinking about starting your fat-freezing journey? The number of sessions you'll need depends on your goals and the areas you're looking to treat.

Generally speaking, there are some general guidelines as to how many sessions you'll need [4]:

  • Smaller areas: Typically, just one session is sufficient for treating smaller areas.
  • Larger areas: If you're aiming to address larger areas or have slightly more fat to target, consider 2-3 treatment sessions.
  • Mild to moderate fat: Individuals with mild to moderate fat in 1 or 2 body areas might achieve the desired results with a single treatment.
  • Greater amounts of fat: Those dealing with larger amounts of unwanted fat or looking to treat multiple areas usually require 2-3 sessions to achieve their goals.
  • Excess fat: If there's a specific area on your body with a notable excess of fat, you might need approximately 4-6 treatment sessions.

When it comes to the fat reduction achieved through fat-freezing treatments, there's no one-size-fits-all formula for the number of sessions.

How long does fat freezing last?

How long the effects of fat freezing last will change from person to person and be influenced by lifestyle choices such as exercise and diet. However, there's a general rule of thumb to how long the effects last. Let's take a look.

Visible changes can occur within just 3 weeks and will typically reach their peak around 3 months post-treatment. On average, fat reduction ranges from 10-25% per treatment round [2]. The treatment essentially kills fat cells, so it's unlikely that the fat will return to the targeted areas if a healthy diet and lifestyle are maintained.

However, remember that the focus of fat-freezing treatments is on fat loss, which does not necessarily equate to weight loss.

A question that many people have before they start fat-freezing is about maintenance. Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can help to extend the results of the treatment, but fat cells can still expand if you gain weight after the procedure.

What are the side effects of fat freezing?

Before starting a fat-freezing treatment, it's common to wonder, " Is fat freezing safe?" While it is generally considered safe, there are some potential side effects to be aware of [2].

It might sound counterintuitive, but a potential side effect of fat-freezing treatments can be weight gain. It's also possible that you may feel pain or discomfort during or following the treatment. During the procedure, you may feel a range of sensations, including pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site.

This may be due to the intense cold temperatures the treatment uses. You might also experience rashes or lesions.

It's also important to note that fat-freezing treatments may potentially cause nerve problems, which can result in numbness, tingling, or other sensations. However, this is very rare.

Another possible side effect is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia [5]. This is a rare side effect that may occur where the size of fat cells increases after cryolipolysis treatment, and men and people of Hispanic ethnicity are the most likely to experience it.

It is important to note that the side effects of fat-freezing treatments are generally mild and temporary, and most people can return to their normal activities immediately after the treatment. Make sure to chat about any concerns or questions you may have with your doctor before undergoing the procedure.

Can fat freezing alter your menstrual cycle?

There currently isn't a lot of research about whether fat freezing can alter menstrual cycles. However, that does mean that there is no evidence to suggest that fat freezing will affect your menstrual cycles.

It's also important to note that there isn't a whole lot of research on the effects of fat freezing on pregnant people, so it is generally recommended that those who are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding avoid the procedure for the safety of themselves and their child.

Generally speaking, fat-freezing treatments do not affect anything beyond the layer of treated skin and fat, so organs like the ovaries are safe and won't be affected. However, it is important to discuss any concerns or questions you may have with your healthcare provider before undergoing the procedure.

Can fat freezing cause blood clots?

There is no clear evidence to suggest that fat freezing can cause blood clots. Fat freezing treatments are a non-invasive procedure that uses cold temperatures to reduce fat deposits in certain areas of the body and the procedure is generally considered safe.

While there is no evidence to suggest that fat-freezing treatments can cause blood clots, it's always important to discuss any concerns or questions you may have with your healthcare provider before undergoing any procedure.

Alternatives to fat freezing for weight loss

So, what are your options if fat-freezing treatment isn't right for you? A cosmetic procedure like liposuction is one of the most common methods of removing fat. However, this is an invasive surgical procedure that needs to be carefully considered before undertaking.

If you're looking for non-surgical fat reduction, Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme can provide a non-invasive, medical approach to weight loss. Our programme gives you access to pharmacist-prescribed medication, dietitian-led health coaching, a members-only app and a private online community of like-minded women on their own weight loss journey.

The Juniper programme addresses your metabolism on a biological level with pioneering weight loss medication backed by sustainable dietary and exercise changes you can stick to for the long term. We prescribe Wegovy, which contains semaglutide — check your eligibility here.