There's a patch that may dissolve targeted fat. Celebrate accordingly

Science has devised a love-handle melter

Science has devised a love-handle melter

(Source: Columbia University Medical Center)

Love Handles are poorly named. Most of us barely appreciate ours as friends, let alone have feelings of deep affection for them (I don't like you that way, love handles). Still, forget about nomenclature and brace yourselves. Science may be on the verge of giving us the closest thing to an unfriend button for nature's fatty frenemy.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of North Carolina have designed a sticky skin patch that delivers an effective fat-transforming dose anywhere you slap it. What the potentially miraculous fat zapping patch actually does, via dozens of medicated microscopic needles, is promote something experts call "browning", a chemical process that turns large white (energy storing) fat into smaller brown (energy burning) fat. Babies are born with tons of the brown kind because it's easily converted to heat, thwarting cold (think seals). So, you actually want to hang onto your baby fat, which surprisingly isn't easy. Much of it has long been replaced by the white stuff you want less of come adulthood. Enter the nanoparticle needle by way of a handy patch, and we could be bringing back more healthy brown fat in adults and spot-shrinking midsections (and any other sections). Anyone needle averse should note they likely wouldn't feel a thing - each tiny syringe is 400 times smaller than a human hair (or 250 nanometres in diameter if you're a stickler for detail).    

While there are already browning drugs available that also boost overall metabolism, typically administered to treat disorders like obesity and diabetes, this is the first time a fat-melting medication has been successfully applied locally. Study co-author and assistant professor of pathology & cell biology at Columbia, Dr Li Qiang confirms, "there are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections." Something which can lead to a host of unwanted side effects like bone fractures, stomach issues and oddly enough, weight gain. "Our skin patch appears to alleviate these complications by delivering most drugs directly to fat tissue."  


Yes, there's enough empirical evidence to allow hope for a love handle patch. Or back fat patch, or arm waddle patch, or saddle bag patch, depending on which anatomical neighbourhood your fat cell gangs like to hang out in. Rejoice accordingly, but with reservation.

While this scientific excuse to have a second serving of pie seems promising, so far, based on findings published Friday, it's only benefited obese mice. For the study, each decidedly corpulent mouse used was saddled with two, centimetre-square patches - one medicated, one not - on each side of its rotund little body. Every three days for a month, every chubby mouse had new patches applied, one love handle consistently medicated, the other left to chub for itself. The results were conclusive: the side of the lower abdomen that enjoyed a transformative release of medicated nanoparticles deep into skin tissue saw a merciful fat reduction of 20 per cent compared to the placebo patch side. Put another way, in four weeks of treatment one mousey love handle shrank by a fifth. Treated mice also experienced a positive drop in blood glucose levels. No info was given on whether the love handles were balanced out on the other side after or if the mice were doomed to waddle in circles indefinitely. Also, SCIENCE SHRUNK A LOVE HANDLE, his heart squealed in a hopeful fit of joy.

Still, the cosmetic potential shouldn't be overshadowed by the health benefits of the find. Qiang is clear, "much more important is that our patch may provide a safe and effective means of treating obesity and related metabolic disorders such as diabetes." Of course. Though he admitted that "many people will no doubt be excited to learn that we may be able to offer a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles."

Because of the healing possibilities, quicker means to trigger beneficial browning in adult humans has been studied for years. Consider, though, that it happens naturally when we're exposed to cold temperatures. Something that explains the deluge of fat sculpting cryolipolysis treatments available at beauty spas across the country. But controlled cold can do a body good. Another reason to lament global warming and celebrate the harsh Canadian winters of old.

Should you be reading this for some takeaways on targeting your own white fat cell stomping grounds, some data shows that you can boost your brown fat cell make up without being studied like a chubby mouse. While you're waiting for that fat patch to hit shelves and seasonal temperatures to drop, don't binge or starve yourself, get regular exercise, eat an apple (peel on) to get some ursolic acid in you, and stimulate your body's melatonin production with a diet that includes fish, almonds, tart cherries, cardamom and coriander. They all boost the hormone which in turn regulates a healthy sleep cycle, something you need for a host of healthy reasons, the least of which is managing muffin top.   

Again, no human has been subjected to/graced with the targeted fat patch yet. But with researchers currently studying the most effective combination of drugs needed to cultivate both browning and metabolic spikes in the human animal, we may not be far from those trials. And I prophesy no shortage of volunteers for the study.

Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen