Monthly Archives: November 2016

Lower Certain Blood

A new study suggests that liposuction — which plastic surgeons often use to sculpt the bodies of people who aren’t extremely overweight — can lower levels of a type of blood fat called triglycerides.

“High triglyceride levels are known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” study author Dr. Eric Swanson, a plastic surgeon, said in a news release from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “The decrease in these levels after liposuction was surprisingly dramatic, and revealed that the permanent removal of excess fat cells by liposuction has a major impact on circulating levels of triglycerides.”

The research doesn’t definitively prove that liposuction caused levels to drop, however, and an outside researcher questioned the value of the study.

The study looked at 270 women and 52 men who underwent either liposuction, a tummy tuck (known as an abdominoplasty), or both. On average, the patients were slightly overweight, although they ranged from nearly underweight to morbidly obese.

The patients underwent fasting blood tests before surgery, one month afterward, and again three months afterward. At three months after surgery, triglyceride levels dropped from an average of 151.8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) to 112.8 mg/dL in patients who underwent liposuction alone, representing a decrease of 25.7 percent; they fell by 43 percent in those with levels considered to be “at risk” — that is, 150 mg/dL or more.

Levels of white blood cells also dipped after liposuction and in patients who had both procedures. (High white blood cell counts are linked with an increased level of inflammation within the body and have been associated with coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.) Levels of cholesterol and blood sugar didn’t change significantly.

Commenting on the study, University of Colorado researcher Rachael Van Pelt, who has studied the after-effects of liposuction, said the findings are “virtually meaningless” because triglyceride levels vary from day to day, and the researchers didn’t include a control group.

In addition, “changes in lifestyle (diet and exercise) over time would have profound effects on serum triglycerides, so without knowing how this changed over time in these surgery patients, one can’t attribute any improvements to the surgery per se,” said Van Pelt, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Anti Wrinkle Problem Tips

Preliminary industry-funded research suggests that a gel based on the active ingredient of the injectable Botox wrinkle treatment could help reduce the lines around the eyes known as crow’s feet — without the pain of needles.

The effects of the gel, which uses botulinum toxin, last for about four months, comparable to that produced by Botox injections, the researchers said.

The new study is encouraging since it showed that the gel “noticeably softened crow’s feet,” said study author Dr. Michael Kane, a plastic surgeon at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City. He has served as an investigator and consultant to Revance Therapeutics of Mountain View, Calif., the gel maker that has been trying to develop a Botox alternative for several years.

There are several caveats, he pointed out. It’s not clear how much the treatment would cost, whether it would work better than injected Botox or when it might be available.

The gel is “not commercialized, it’s not approved,” Kane said, noting the research is part of a phase II clinical trial. “No one is going to be running to the doctor and getting this until phase III studies are done and the FDA rules.”

Botox — produced, like the gel, from the botulinum toxin — weakens or paralyzes muscles or nerves. In targeted injections, cosmetic plastic surgeons use small doses of it to smooth facial wrinkles.

Botox treatment can be painful and cost hundreds of dollars, however, and may result in “the appearance of a ‘frozen,’ insincere smile,” according to the study abstract. And Botox injections can cause bruising, said Dr. Seth Thaller, chief of the Division of Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

A pain-free, less expensive wrinkle treatment would likely boost the field of non-invasive cosmetic surgery. Despite their drawbacks, injections of Botox and another wrinkle relaxer, Dysport, are the most popular minimally invasive cosmetic surgery procedures performed in the United States, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Fingers Prune Up

If you’ve ever spent too much time in the pool, or if you like to unwind at the end of a hard day with an hours-long soak in the tub, you’re probably familiar with the “pruney fingers” phenomenon. Believe it or not, scientists have been studying this raisin-like effect for decades, trying to figure out why your hands (and sometimes your feet) get so wrinkly when wet.

One popular idea is that your skin simply becomes waterlogged. According to the Library of Congress, the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, is made up of dead keratin cells that absorb moisture when immersed in water for an extended period of time. This absorption causes the cells to swell, but because they’re still connected to the underlying tissue, which does not expand, the outer skin has to wrinkle to compensate for its larger surface area. It’s a little like having a king-size sheet for a queen-size mattress: The extra material has nowhere to go, so it bunches up unevenly on top.

But why are only your fingers and toes affected — why doesn’t your entire body wrinkle? Scientists say it’s because our hands and feet have the thickest epidermis and thus more keratin cells to absorb water. (Your nails also contain keratin, which is why they may feel softer after you do the dishes.)

Is There a Purpose to Pruning?

The problem with this hypothesis is that it doesn’t really account for the fact that fingers and toes don’t wrinkle when their nerve endings have been severed, as by injury or complications from diabetes. This can be explained by a different theory, which proposes that the prune-like effect is due not to skin saturation but to a reaction in the central nervous system — a “classic mechanics problem,” as Columbia University biomechanical engineer Xi Chen, PhD, explained it to Nature News.

The mechanics theory is based on the idea of vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels. Basically, when fingers and toes are immersed in hot or cold water, nerve endings fire off signals that cause your blood vessels to constrict and the tissue below your skin’s surface to contract. This, in turn, forces the outermost layer of skin to buckle, resulting in wrinkling.

Hair Loss Problem Tips

As if the heartache of divorce wasn’t hardship enough, it appears that women enduring marital break-up may also have to deal with hair loss.

New research reveals that, genetics aside, the next strongest predictor of midline (central) hair loss among women is their marital status, with the loss of a spouse (through either divorce or death) raising the risk for thinning hair above that of married or single women.

“Most likely, stress is the aspect of a troubling divorce that appears to lead to hair loss among women,” noted study author Dr. Bahman Guyuron, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

Excessive drinking and/or smoking also appear to boost the risk for hair loss among women, the study found.

Smoking and heavy drinking also contributed to thinning locks among men, the study found. But in other respects the two genders were affected differently, with various patterns of male hair loss sparked by overexposure to the sun, cancer history and having a “couch potato” lifestyle, among others.

“What we can say is that we identified factors that appear to both raise risk and lower risk, for both men and women, independent of genetic disposition,” Guyuron said.

He is slated to present the findings from two related studies on Sunday at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ annual meeting, in Denver.

In the first study, the authors focused exclusively on a pool of 84 female identical twins, all of whom completed lifestyle questionnaires, followed by hormone blood level testing and an extensive photo analysis of their hair. Studies of identical twins can be useful because each twin carries the same genes as the other, ruling out genetic differences as a potential cause for a trait or illness.

Across the temporal area (near temples) of the head, the team found that the more years a woman had smoked the greater the hair loss. A history of skin conditions also contributed to hair loss in that area, while having just a couple drinks per week actually seemed to reduce the risk.