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Jeff Sutherland

Twice the Energy with Half the Stress

‘Visceral’ fat removal prompts hope

By Carey Goldberg, Boston Globe Staff | April 17, 2004

The patient was neither obese enough nor desperate enough for stomach-stapling surgery. But he had raging diabetes and a daunting load of the most dangerous fat: the ‘‘visceral’’ kind that surrounds internal organs and swells pot bellies, inviting heart disease and stroke.

So he chose to undergo an experimental operation based on a radical proposition: that simply slicing out a hefty chunk of his visceral fat, by removing a curtainlike flap of internal abdominal fat called the omentum, might help with his diabetes and other health problems. Unlike liposuction, which sucks out fat just under the skin, the omentum operation has no cosmetic effect, and is not aimed at weight loss. Rather, it reflects a mounting push among researchers around the world to understand and neutralize visceral fat, now that a growing body of data is showing that it is more harmful than fat near the surface.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center surgeons, working with obesity specialists at Joslin Diabetes Center, have tried the experimental surgery on four patients in recent months, using a two-hour laparoscopic procedure that involves pulling strips of the yellow abdominal fat out through tiny holes. Their study, still underway, is the first to examine the possible health benefits of removing only the omentum.

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