— If you're on a quest for the body beautiful, you've got a staggering variety of pills, potions and surgeries to help you shed inches or erase cellulite if exercise, diet or your genes fail you. And now there's a new and increasingly popular weapon in the anti-fat arsenal.
A growing number of people are deciding to have doctors inject them with a cocktail of drugs, vitamins and supplements in hopes of reshaping their bodies.
It's a procedure called mesotherapy, and it involves undergoing hundreds of injections, once a week, for several weeks. The drugs are injected into the mesodermal — or middle — layer of the skin.
The technique was pioneered in France by Dr. Michel Pistor, and has been performed there since 1952. But it's just begun to attract practitioners and clients in the United States in the past few years.
Dr. Lionel Bissoon, who learned the technique in France five years ago, has become America's leading expert and advocate of mesotherapy.
Bissoon says mesotherapy — over the course of 10 sessions — blocks our ability to store fat and stimulates our ability to burn it up. He says a physician can target specific areas of fat by injecting a blend of medications commonly used for asthma and high blood pressure along with vitamins and supplements directly into a specific area of the body.
A single session can cost as much as $500, so a full course of treatment is a substantial investment. But it seems to be catching on. Bissoon, who has practices in New York, Florida and California, says his clients range from celebrities and CEOs to secretaries.
Bissoon claims the fat winds up in the muscle, where it's used for energy. It does sound too good to be true, especially since Bissoon says he refuses to take patients who won't exercise or follow a healthy diet.
But his patients seem to be happy with the results. Bissoon's most famous client is Roberta Flack. The superstar crooner had a long battle with weight and thought that her extra pounds were indeed killing her softly.
"When you're young and you're overweight, it's just there. After you pass a certain point in your life, well, gravity takes over. And you have a fat stomach that has rolls on top of rolls on top of rolls. And you can't breathe with that," Flack said.
Since starting mesotherapy last year — along with exercise and changing her diet — Flack has lost more than 40 pounds.
Two Patients’ Progress
20/20 followed two of Bissoon's patients for weeks to see how mesotherapy worked for them.
One patient, Josselyne Herman-Saccio, is a 35-year-old mother of two who has a full-time job. She looks fit now, but, she says she used to look much better before she had kids. Now, she says, she can't find time to work out. To see the effect of the mesotherapy alone, 20/20 asked Herman-Saccio not to exercise or change her diet.
The other patient 20/20 followed is Katie Noonan-Ewald, a 32-year-old business executive. Noonan-Ewald says she exercises regularly, but had hit a plateau and was unable to get the results she wanted. Every week she flies from her home in Detroit to New York, where she gets her mesotherapy injections.
After six weeks, we checked in with Herman-Saccio — who changed neither her eating nor her exercise habits. She was very happy with the results.
"I've lost over four and a half inches in my waist," she said, "three or four inches in my hips … I'm wearing clothes that I haven't worn in four years."