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Counter weight: Plastic surgery society opposes liposuction as 'cure' for childhood obesity

National report — While the number of overweight youngsters undergoing liposuction may be trending upward, a spokesman for one cosmetic surgery society warns that such procedures are not the solution to the problem of childhood obesity.

According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 3,000 individuals younger than 18 underwent liposuction in 2005 — a 22 percent increase over those receiving liposuction in 2000. The Society adds that because such procedures often are performed by doctors who are not plastic surgeons, there may well be many more unreported teenage liposuctions.

In the wake of a People magazine article chronicling the 35-pound liposuction weight-reduction procedure performed on a 12-year-old girl, another organization, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), released a strong cautionary statement saying there is no evidence liposuction is safe or effective for children.

The ASAPS statement quotes David Sarwer, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Human Appearance, as saying, "Childhood obesity is one of our nation's growing health problems, and there are a number of widely accepted treatments for children and adolescents who struggle with their weight —liposuction and abdominoplasty are not among them. Hopefully, the media attention surrounding [the People] story does not lead other adolescents and their families to think that liposuction and abdominoplasty are accepted treatments for obesity."

The ASAPS says that liposuction should only be performed on patients whose bodies have reached full development. "Operating on a feature that has not yet fully developed could interfere with its growth or negate the benefits of surgery in later years," says the ASAPS.

Even for adults, liposuction should not be considered a "cure" for obesity, says the ASAPS. The procedure is best applied to reduce fat deposits in the abdomen, buttocks or thighs that are impervious to diet and exercise — and, in any case, the best liposuction candidates are those of normal weight.

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