Fat: If You Can't Burn It, Freeze It?

New treatments lets you freeze extra fat and tighten your skin.

ByABC News
February 8, 2011, 3:36 PM

Feb. 9, 2011 — -- Barbara Knoth, a schoolteacher, is like a lot of women over 40.

"I've always been thin. I've never had a problem with my weight. And then, all of a sudden, this belly fat started to appear. I walk, I jog, I go to a gym but no matter what I did, this would not go away," Knoth said.

Knoth is also part of a growing movement of women eager to avoid cosmetic surgery.

"I don't want to go under the knife and [get] anesthesia," she said.

Instead, Knoth is getting a new treatment that's simple and pain free -- freezing her fat away.

"It's like a vacuum. But once it's been on for a couple of minutes, you really don't feel anything," said Knoth.

The one-hour treatment is called Zeltiq and was just approved by the FDA. A vacuum like device pulls in those annoying bits around the middle and literally freezes them. The fat cells die a slow death over 6 to 8 weeks and the results are dramatic.

"It's incredibly popular," said Dr. Debra Jaliman. "I mean, first of all, when people first hear about it, they think it's too good to be true. They can't even believe it. And then when I explain it, they say, "Does this really work? But the patients we've done, they've just been ecstatic."

"I've been in dermatology for 25 years," said Jaliman, "and I never expected to see this."

In its ability to target a specific area, Zeltiq is similar to liposuction. But it's not surgery, and the lack of pain and recovery time has made this one of the hottest treatments, so to speak, that Jaliman offers. But results are not immediate – they can take five to eight weeks.

"It's a gradual change because it went over, I guess, about six weeks. And I kept on looking and looking and said 'I don't see anything, I don't see anything.' But you're not going to see anything because you're seeing yourself every day. It wasn't till I saw the pictures, that I realized how much belly fat was gone," said Knoth.

The new treatment is the brainchild of Dr. Rox Anderson of Harvard University and Mass General. A laser specialist who invented laser hair removal and spends most of his time removing debilitating scars and marks from children, he started wondering about the effects of cold a few years ago.