A Tummy Tuck for Your Health?

A 2013 study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, suggests that tummy tuck surgery can jump-start permanent weight loss.

  • Researchers followed 20 tummy tuck patients for a year after surgery.
  • After one year, 70% weighed less than they had immediately after the surgery-in other words, they successfully continued getting thinner after their tummy tucks. The other six women in the study returned to their pre-surgery weight.

What Made the Difference?

So why would tummy tuck be an effective springboard for weight loss for some women but not others? Paradoxically, this study showed that the fatter the woman was before surgery, the more effective the surgery was.

  • Long-term weight loss was more likely for women whose initial BMI was 24.5 or greater, just under the borderline for overweight.
  • Only one of the 14 women with sustained weight loss had an initial BMI of less than 24.5.

In addition, the more abdominal tissue removed, the likelier the sustained weight loss.

  • 12 of the 14 women with long-term weight loss had more than 4.5 pounds of tissue removed.

Can a Cosmetic Procedure Affect the Ability to Control Weight?

Most people think keeping weight down is all about will power. So how to explain what happened in this study?

  • The researchers hypothesize that increased satiety (being able to feel full after eating) was the crucial factor.
  • All of the women with sustained weight loss said that after surgery they could-for the first time in their lives-feel full after eating and throughout the day.

It makes sense. The hormones that affect appetite are secreted by fatty tissues. Removing fatty tissue lowers those secretions, thus re-setting the neuroendocrine system. The patient’s appetite reaches the normal range enjoyed by people who are ‘naturally thin.’

So will power had nothing to do with successful weight control in this population. The successful women had simply acquired the physiology associated with being able to maintain normal weight.