Home Health Fighting Fat Takes a Cool Turn

Fighting Fat Takes a Cool Turn

by Bruce Haring

Beyond our changing climate, politics, race relations or the economy, Americans are obsessed with one thing: losing fat and looking good.

The Holy Grail for doing so has long been viewed as a pill that can be taken, instantly lopping off the pounds while allowing the user to continue to live their chosen lifestyle. We had that for a brief, shining moment in the late 20th century, when a product called fen-phen was on the market.

The fen-phen combination of fenfluramine and phentermine was marketed by American Home Products (later known as Wyeth) as something called Pondimin. However well it worked as a weight-loss product, it also caused potentially fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problems. It was pulled and later its makers coughed up $13 billion in damages.

That was then. Today, we have a new product that’s claiming to be the cure-all for those with a few pounds to lose before that big reunion.  Unlike a drug, you don’t have to ingest it. There’s no invasive surgery. There’s also nothing to do but lay back and act like a frozen pizza.

The process is called CoolSculpting, a non-invasive, body-sculpting and fat reduction aesthetic treatment. It was discovered by a scientist who noticed that fat cells would disappear when exposed to extreme cold. Anecdotally, he heard that New England women who went out for brisk horseback rides in the cold weather reported a marked decrease in fat (I kid you not). The concept is lipid rich cells in subcutaneous fat layer are more susceptible to cold.

This led to some investigation and viola, CoolSculpting was born.


The CoolSculpting system works like this: you visit an office and an applicator is applied to your body that generates extreme cold (don’t worry, you can take it). Over the next hour, your fat cells will freeze and crystallize.

Over the next two to three months, you’ll see the results, as you excrete the dead cells. The good news: the fat cells are permanently destroyed in the target area of the body. The technology is FDA approved and has been around since 2010.

Yes, it’s expensive. The treatments are usually over $600 and often more per visit, and that’s only for a part of the body (you can do multiple parts at once, but there’s a fee for each part). The treatment is sold primarily by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, but some stores devoted solely to CoolSculpting treatments have emerged. An estimated 150,000 people will undergo the procedure this year.

The CoolSculpting people are part of Zeltiq (NASDAQ: ZLTQ), a company that claims there are 85 million people in the US with abdominal and/or back fat. Drilling down, they estimate about four to eight million of them would consider the CoolSculpting treatment,

We’re looking at you, big guy. So hop up on the table and let’s chill.



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