CONSUMER BRIEF: Consumers of plastic and cosmetic surgery see many advertisements about powders, creams, wrappings, clothing and even tape that promise to deliver the same results as cosmetic plastic surgery. But few "miracle" products are ever tested to see if they really deliver the goods. However, one rub-on cream purporting to remove fat was recently tested and seems to deliver some results.
When Herluf Lund, Jr., M.D., a St. Louis plastic surgeon, attended medical conferences, eager makers of cosmetic creams, powders, lotions, concoctions and elixirs often approached him, claiming their products could remove wrinkles, plump up lips, remove fat or perform some other function usually accomplished through cosmetic plastic surgery.
Those eager glad-handers wanted the doctor to offer their "miracle" products to his patients.
"My usual defense to end the conversation and chase them away was to say, 'Well, is it O.K. if I first do a double-blind, placebo-controlled test to see if those claims are true?'"
That usually ended the conversation because such testing would reveal a bogus substance.
But what is a "double blind, placebo-controlled test?"
Scientists (plastic surgeons consider themselves physicians and scientists) use that test method to study new drugs and techniques. Neither researchers nor subjects know who is getting the real McCoy and who is getting an inert substance. Both the real and the sham substances look, feel and smell the same and are only identified by numbers.
"..testing reveals a bogus substance."
When the test concludes, the researchers "break the code" and match the numbered bottles to the test subjects to see who had what and if the substance being studied actually worked.
At a recent medical conference, one such maker of a rub-on cream known as Body of Knowledge replied to Dr. Lund's usual chase-them-away response with: "O.K. do the test. We'll give you all the product you require."
Later, Dr. Lund recruited 30 female patients and divided them into two groups, one of which received Body of Knowledge in plain, numbered bottles.
The other group received an inert placebo cream that looked and felt just like the study cream, also in plain, numbered bottles. Both groups used the product twice a day, applying it to their arms, stomach, hips and thighs. The subjects were told to continue with whatever diet and exercise plans, if any, they were on.
The subjects' weight and skin measurements were taken at the study's start and again at 30 and 60 days.
Results? The Body of Knowledge group lost an average two inches from their stomachs. The researchers noted smaller reductions in thighs and hips but, because the study group was so small, could not conclusively say the cream also reduced fat from those areas.
The only side effects were three cases of skin rashes, with two in the study group and one in the placebo group.
"The cream has been studied in Europe with similar results and should be repeated in the United States with a larger group," says Dr. Lund who adds he has no financial interest in the company producing the reducing cream.
But how could a rub-on cream remove fat, all other things being equal?
"It's seems to be due to the ingredients," says Dr. Lund. "One has a tongue twisting name, Theophyllisilane C (thee-o-phil-i-si-lane) and the other is a Spanish patented compound, Liporeductyl (Lipo-reduct-all)."
Basically those, along with a few other, ingredients increase micro-circulation of the blood. When blood flow is increased, more oxygen is used and that increases the body's metabolism.
"The cream also increases levels of triglyceride lipase, a natural enzyme in your body that helps decrease the amount of fat inside fat cells, making them smaller," says the doctor.
According to Prescribed Solutions, the company that makes Body of Knowledge, Liporeductyl was also tested in an uncontrolled study (meaning no placebo group was used) on 20 Spanish women, aged 18 to 70.
The test found buttock size and thigh circumference were also slimmed. Lipotech, the Spain-based company that makes the cream, did the testing.
But reputable physicians always try to practice "evidence-based" medicine. Thus, a firm that studies its own product is usually not considered the most overwhelming and convincing evidence.
When one of the cream's ingredients (Theophyllisilane C) was studied for 60 days on 25 French men and women -- all of whom were on a low calorie diet and getting regular exercise -- researchers found the gel removed slightly over two inches of fat from their waists. Subjects who were tested for 30 days lost about one and one-quarter inches from their stomachs. The subjects also lost inches on their hips and thighs.
In Spain, Dr. Ricardo Casaroli-Marano, M.D., Ph.D, tested Liporeductyl on human fat cells in Petri dishes. The researchers found the compound inhibited fat cells from maturing and getting larger, although it did not destroy them.
David Avarm, M.D., a New York City dermatologist, frequently prescribes Body of Knowledge to his patients for cellulite reduction.
"Patients want to give their bodies the same medical anti-aging results they have come to expect for their faces," says Dr. Avarm.