Light Therapy – Just Melt Your Fat Away!?!

There has been a lot of buzz in the lay media about some new types of therapies that use various forms of light treatment that supposedly take inches off of your body.  The most talked about of these therapies is the Zerona system.  This system uses a low level laser directed at the fatty tissues just under the skin.  The manufactures claim that the laser causes the walls of the fat cells to become porous and then the contents of the fat cells then leak out and are absorbed by the body.  The Zerona system requires six treatments spaced out over two weeks with each treatment requiring around 40 minutes.  All reports indicate the treatments are painless and the patient simply has to lay there and let the laser scan over them.  The Zerona system promos state this treatment will take inches off an area from the base of the neck to the thighs.  Sounds incredible-doesn’t it?  Well, here’s the catch.  The Zerona system also requires that all of the patients be on a special diet and exercise program in combination with some “homeopathic “medications-that means they won’t tell you what is in them, you just have to hope that the stuff is safe and effective.

At the recent meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, one investigator presented his data on some patients he had treated with the Zerona system.  The presenter disclosed that he was a consultant and paid investigator of the device.  His results were not impressive.  There was some decrease in size but nothing close to the marketing claims of the Zerona system.  What was more interesting is that a number of other plastic surgeons responded during the discussion session by stating they had also tried the Zerona system and all had sent theirs back because of patient dissatisfaction. One doctor also noted that if you just put the patients on the same diet and exercise program advocated by the Zerona system, the patients all lost inches in the same areas.  Apparently others must feel the same as those plastic surgeons since the internet is filled with patient blogs and websites stating how unhappy they are with the treatment.
Once again, this appears to be a case of marketing leading the science rather than the other way around.  There may be some real effect of the Zerona laser system but shouldn’t the studies-including at least one controlled study-be performed before the marketing people hit the street?

Herluf Lund MD

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