Fat Dissolving Injections Explained

Dr. Christopher McGowan
julio 26, 2021

Losing weight can be a frustrating process. Even if you are doing your best to eat right and exercise regularly, there may still be some persistent fat deposits that just won’t go away. 

Some people consider liposuction to get rid of those last few pounds, but going under the knife has its own risks. Cool sculpting is another option, but has its limitations. For those not excited about the prospect of surgery to clear away stubborn fat, there is still one more option: injection lipolysis, or fat dissolving injections. 

What are Fat Dissolving Injections?

It can seem like all your body wants to do is pack on the pounds, but breaking down fat is something your digestive system does every day in your digestive system. To process the fats in the food you eat, your body produces bile acids such as cholic and chenodeoxycholic acid. Injection lipolysis uses a similar chemical, deoxycholic acid, to destroy fat cells found elsewhere in your body. 

Fat melting injections work on the principle of applying the same process happening in your intestines to localized fat deposits elsewhere in your body. The two main treatments available are Kybella, which has FDA approval, and Aqualyx, which is not FDA-approved, but is available in many other countries throughout the world. 

Since fat dissolving injections use a modified bile acid to destroy pockets of fat, the excess fat cells that are broken down, and the chemical used for the treatment can both be processed out through your lymphatic system. This is one of the limiting factors of the treatment, as there is a finite amount of fat your body can process out at any given time. For this reason, injection lipolysis is typically done in several rounds of shots. 

Treatment with injectables such as Kybella or Aqualyx does not have the risks of surgery that are present in even minor liposuction procedures. Most patients have little downtime, and the side effects are not typically severe for most patients. That said, some people may be allergic to compounds in the injection, and there is a possibility of nerve damage from the procedure. 

It is important to note that treatments like Kybella are very different from options like Wegovy, which is an injectable drug designed to make a change to several metabolic processes in the body. Wegovy works by improving insulin secretion, altering glucose production, and more to help curb eating and manage blood sugar levels, all of which can help reduce fat gain, as opposed to removing fat directly. 

Getting Rid of That Double Chin

As a body contouring procedure, fat removal with injectables is not designed to get rid of large amounts of extra body weight. Rather than more invasive procedures for weight loss that are designed to help people lose large amounts of body weight, Aqualyx and Kybella are cosmetic procedures designed to target fat in certain areas of the body. Rather than fixing a BMI that has gotten too high, injectables are designed to help shape the jawline or get rid of stubborn love handles. 

One of the most common areas treated on the body is the dreaded double chin. Known as submental fat, these fat deposits under the chin or in the jowls can be difficult to lose, and some people are more prone to having them naturally. Through a series of injections, small amounts of deoxycholic acid can be injected into the area under the jaw to break down fat cells. Since there are important nerves running along the jaw, there is a small possibility of nerve damage as a result of the injections. 

Stubborn fat around the waist, commonly known as love handles or the muffin top, can also be treated with fat dissolving injections, as can excess fat under the arms. While these areas of the body are larger, and can carry more fat than the chin, using injections to get rid of fat should still be thought of as a body contouring procedure rather than a weight loss plan. Diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle is still the best line of defense against unwanted body weight. 

How Long do Fat Dissolving Injections Last?

The effects of fat melting injections like Kybella or Aqualyx can be permanent for some people. If your body weight is stable and you are not putting on the pounds, it is unlikely your body will build back up fat stores that have been destroyed. If, on the other hand, you experience a significant weight gain after having your injections, there is a chance your body will store new fat in the treated area.

Though fat dissolving injections can have lasting results, there is no substitute for developing a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Managing long-term weight loss takes commitment, and even though the fat cells destroyed by injection lipolysis don’t return, if you begin gaining weight again after treatment, you may find those unwanted fat deposits coming back. This is why sticking to a diet that is full of healthy fats, low in carbs, and free of sugars and processed foods is essential no matter what treatment you are considering. 

Are Fat Melting Injections Safe?

No medical procedure, from major surgeries to minor injections, is entirely without risk. Many people use Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as a benchmark for safety, and here fat dissolving injections get a mixed report card. Kybella is a product that was approved by the FDA in 2015. Auqalyx, on the other hand, has not received FDA approval. 

Fat melting injections typically have low rates of negative outcomes or side effects when administered appropriately and given the right patients. That said, there are certain people for whom fat dissolving injectables are not safe. You should not get fat dissolving injections if:

  • you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • you have lipodystrophy (the inability to produce fat)
  • you are prone to infections or have skin diseases
  • you have any fat processing disorder

When considering whether injectables are the right answer for you, there are a few things to consider. There are some patients who lack the proper skin elasticity or whose weight fluctuates too much for lasting results to be possible. 

Age is certainly a factor, and these injections are not typically recommended for people over 60 years old. Older people often lack the skin elasticity, and removing fat can leave skin around the face baggy. Similarly, receiving injections to reduce fat may not be ideal if you are still struggling with putting on unwanted pounds. 

Body Contouring Versus Weight Loss Procedures

Small areas of the body can be treated through cosmetic procedures such as Aqualyx, but getting to a healthy weight and staying there for the long term is a different matter. Diet and exercise will always be the cornerstones of a lasting weight loss plan, but some people find that these are not enough. For these people, looking into a weight loss procedure may be the next step. 

There have been major advances in weight loss procedures in recent years. The gastric bypass was once considered to be the gold standard, but as data piles up, it is becoming evident that the long-term risks of this kind of surgery may outweigh the potential benefits. As a result, more and more people are turning to minimally invasive procedures such as endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG), the ORBERA® Managed Weight Loss System, or even injectables such as Wegovy to help drop excess body fat. These procedures typically come with fewer side effects and shorter recovery times. 

At True You Weight Loss, we are committed to helping people find freedom from excess body weight. If you are interested in learning more about the services we offer, and how you can begin walking down the path to better weight management, solicitar una consulta with us today.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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