Could a laser fat zapper trim 3.5 inches off your waist by New Year?

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IMAGE: SHUTTERSTOCK

I don’t write about beauty stories much – but recently I  received an invite to a press launch that intrigued me.   Would I like to witness a  “live demonstration”  of  the Zerona body contour laser? Er… maybe. Zerona is the latest fat-busting treatment to come out of the USA – non-invasive, painless, it causes no swelling or bruising – and  is especially good for bingo wings (the stubborn arm fat that is the scourge of  women of a certain age).  Its unique selling point is that it is a device for removal of circumferential fat (that means evenly around your waist, hips , thighs or arms), so you’re not left with uneven, lumpy areas. It  literally shrinks your fat cells.

Melissa McCarthy wants it…..

 

More than 600,000 people in the US have already been treated with Zerona and as with most things , what goes down well in the States usually takes off here too, sooner or later. Their marketing guy told me they sponsored the Emmy Awards and their room was full of celebs queuing up for free treatments (although not actually on the night I’m guessing). One of them was Melissa McCarthy (above)  star of the cult  Bridesmaids  2011 movie. The marketing man also  said the treatment is  particularly popular with men and the company is positioning itself in  gyms attached to day spas in the US – apparently because blokes like the idea of combining the fat zapping with exercise ( maybe they’re just in denial though and like to kid themselves it’s just the exercise that has trimmed their waists?).

Is it just lipo  under another name?

If it all sounds  a bit like  a 21st century reinvention of  liposuction – actually it’s not. The problem with liposuction (apparently) is that it can lead to weird , lumpy, disfigurement – you suck out fat in one area and the area looks unnatural and fat clumps around the  sucked-out  area. Liposuction is also an invasive procedure – you have an incision and fat is sucked out .It can give rise to complications – including infections ,  numbness, scarring and in rare cases life threatening thrombosis.Not so with Zerona. Over 600,000 treatments have been completed in the US with no reported adverse events and there’s no recovery time – so you could literally have the treatments in your lunch hour(s).

How strong is the  evidence?

Another thing caught my eye. Zerona  is the first body sculpting  ‘ cool’ laser to be cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration .To get this approval by the FDA, the cool laser actually had to undergo  a randomised double-blind clinical trial (as you know  this is the best quality research evidence as it compares interventions with having no treatment and patients don’t know if they are having the real thing or a fake treatment). I took a look at the study – published in 2009. There were only 67 participants admittedly, but of those 35 had active treatment with Zerona and 32 were randomised to the sham treatment.  All the participants agreed to make no changes to their diets or exercise regime for the duration of their two weeks of treatment. The researchers concluded that Zerona was  effective at removing 3.5 inches of circumferential fat on three areas – the waist, hips , and the thighs – compared with only 0.684  of an inch loss in the sham group who didn’t have Zerona but a fake treatment. This was achieved in two weeks – which sounds impressive.  I have read one blog from an American plastic surgeon which is sceptical about the paper to say the least though.The company have 17 other clinical papers  published in peer-reviewed journals too (I haven’t read them all, though).

The cynic in me though, is asking is it just a temporary effect, similar to those funny body wrap things in beauty parlours which draw out water and make you look less bloated for a few days – just so you can look slimmer for a wedding or party? Well, the research did find that after two weeks the participants who’d had the Zerona treatment had regained 0.31 inches on all three sites – so clearly it’s not a totally permanent solution. I’d be interested in the long-term follow-up  figures to see if those inches remain off for six or 12 months  or more .If they do  I can see there would be some eager takers for it in the UK.

What’s the science behind it then?

The laser triggers a photochemical reaction which causes the  fat within fat cells to melt and then the fat is released through a pore in the cell created by the laser and then eliminated by the body (you’re  advised to drink lots of water to help flush out the by  products).

UK plastic surgeon Mr  Christopher Inglefield from the London Bridge  Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Clinic describes it as a “natural biological reaction in the fat cell” – and is offering it at his clinic (it’s also available at Urban Retreat in Harrods). In the UK the treatment is being licensed for use under medical supervision only. He predicts that devices such as Zerona which complement natural science are the future of medical aesthetic procedures.

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                                                                The Zerona  laser in action

Who does it work best for?

The experts say Zerona is best for  people  of average weight who have stubborn areas of fat they have  found hard to shift. Think post-baby tummy weight for example, love handles, bra strap fat bulge,post menopause thick waist, lumpy thighs  or bingo wings.They wouldn’t recommend it for people who are gaining weight though.

There are reports that Zerona is even more effective if you combine it with a ketogenic diet (that’s a high fat/low carb /controlled protein diet) and exercise – but that’s hardly a surprise is it?

How many treatments do you need?

This depends on your weight and age; the older and heavier you are the more sessions you’ll need. Zerona say you’ll need six 45 minute treatments over two weeks (a minimum of 72 hours apart). It will cost you between £900 and £1,500 in the UK but you’ll need no time off work for recovery – unlike after some more invasive procedures. You can literally have it done in your lunch hour(s).

If you are obese though it’s likely you’ll need at least 12 treatments – so that’s up to £3,000. You might want to try dieting first and then resort to Zerona if you can’t shift those stubborn wobbly bits… it  would be cheaper.

What of the “live demonstration” I hear you ask? Well, a volunteer laid down in front of 25 journalists at the W Hotel and was dutifully lasered for 45 minutes whilst we talked amongst  ourselves. Allegedly she had “stubborn  post-baby fat” – although I have to say if she did, it was incredibly well hidden. Anyway, it looked painless and dare I say it, quite relaxing. When the PR asked if anyone would like to trial it – everyone raised their hands. Always the acid test. Expect to be reading about it in  all the beauty pages soon ….

Are you allergic to your chicken tikka?

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Britain is a nation of takeaway lovers, and chicken tikka masala is now apparently more popular than roast beef. Until now spice allergies have been comparatively rare – accounting for just  two per cent of food allergies. But now US experts are predicting they could rise as more of us become exposed to spices – in foods, household products and fragrances.

Yorkshire nurse Christine  Caudwell experienced spice allergy at first hand when –  out of the blue – she developed itching and hives after eating her favourite takeaway chicken tikka dopiaza. This was a dish she’d eaten at least once a week for 20 years or more and yet, suddenly in her forties it became a problem . Her allergic reactions became progressively worse until she eventually suffered a life threatening anaphylactic reaction and needed a shot of adrenaline. She was later later diagnosed with allergies to 26 different spices including chilli, turmeric and paprika.You can read more about Christine’s story in my article for the Daily Mail Good Health section http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2242522/Did-eating-chicken-tikka-deadly-allergy.html

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Avoiding spices

Christine says she now has to follow a restricted diet because spices are added to so many processed foods including sausages, cheesy puffs and even Easter eggs – and often the label does not specify which spices are ingredients.

But if Christine finds it a nightmare to avoid spices though it’s even more difficult for mother of four Nasiba Mansor, a care worker, 42, who is Asian and lives with her husband Ayub, 45, also a care worker in Leeds. Her son Musa, 11, has been having allergic reactions to spices since the age of six and has to avoid the spices she uses daily in family meals.

‘Musa will sometimes beg me for a samosa but if eats one his mouth will instantly start tingling and he will come out  in red hot welts all over this body.  Sometimes his blood pressure drops too. He’s ended up in hospital many times and has to carry an EpiPen because of the risks he faces.

‘He has to eat plain food with no spices – I can’t use anything with spices or artificial flavourings in his meals – and understandably he feels left out. He wants to be like the rest of the family – but if we go to an extended family get together he has to eat his own packed lunch. I make him non spicy versions of Indian dishes – chicken flavoured with lemon juice and coriander rather spices, cheese, roti bread, plain rice and samosas without the spices.

It took Nasiba a year to work out what was triggering Musa’s severe allergic reactions – he had an EpiPen of adrenaline prescribed – but doctors didn’t know what food was responsible for the reactions.

‘Musa’s lips started to swell and tingle one day after we’d just finished a family meal. Then he came out in small red weals which were red hot to the touch.

‘The food did contain spices but nothing we hadn’t eaten before. I couldn’t work out what was wrong – we have no family history of allergies in our family and had no experience of anything like it.

Nasiba took Musa to hospital and he was given anti-histamines and his symptoms died down – but she still worried because she didn’t know what had provoked the reaction.

‘I carried on giving Musa spicy food – it just didn’t occur to me that spices could be causing the reactions. Spice allergy is unheard of in the Asian community so it didn’t enter my head.’

Although skin prick tests didn’t prove positive for an Ig E reaction – Musa’s specialist believes anything that causes his body to heat up triggers his reactions – including spices. He also reacts if he gets hot from exercising or has too many bedclothes on at night.

‘We think its mainly garam masala spice and chilli which trigger his reactions – but as garam masala is a blend of six spices  and each blend is slightly different it’s  almost impossible to isolate which one is responsible.

‘Better food labelling would definitely help me identify which foods are safe for my son to eat. He’s eleven now and wants to be independent and eat out with friends – it is getting so difficult for him.’

Lindsey McManus, deputy chief executive of the charity Allergy UK, says specific spices don’t have to be listed on ingredient lists on food products in the UK.

‘Spices are also used in a wide range of  non food products – for instance cinnmaldehyde the chemical which gives cinnamon its flavour is used in some toothpastes and can cause skin rashes – they  are increasingly very difficult to avoid.

‘As a charity we are constantly campaigning for clearer and more detailed food labelling.’

Why are more of us becoming allergic as adults?

Allergy consultant Dr Pierre Dugue, from the London Bridge Hospital, says adults developing allergies  was unheard of when he left medical school in the 1970s and yet now it is becoming increasingly common. Why? The truth is nobody really knows, although Dr Dugue says it’s probably something to do with the modern Western lifestyle. One theory is that there’s a window in the development of an infant’s immune system when exposure to good old fashioned dirt can help protect against allergies in later life. He says although spice allergy is rare at the moment it is likely that is  under diagnosed because not many people are aware that spices can trigger allergies, and it can be hard to pinpoint which spice exactly is triggering the response.

Christine Caudwell told me she was dying for a curry – but knows that nothing is worth putting her life at risk.  But  thanks to the vagaries of our food labelling regulations – avoiding spices just isn’t that easy.

Now sag aloo and lamb pasanda are as commonplace  as fish and chips and hot dogs in the UK,  it’s something that food manufacturers  might have to  consider a lot more when they  review how specific  ingredients are listed on packaging.

For more information on allergies call Allergy Uk on 01322 619 898 or visit allergyuk.org