Recent internet videos tout ice packs as a home-remedy for reducing fat tissue. This DIY trend has been inspired by cryolipolysis, the science of freezing the body’s fat cells - which is also the science behind the cosmetic procedure called CoolSculpting. While cryolipolysis is not a weight loss treatment, it can tone and contour your body.
So can an ice pack shrink your belly fat? Unfortunately, there is no scientific basis for this internet fat. It is not recommended by medical professionals, as it is ineffective and dangerous. In this article we explain exactly why an ice pack should be avoided as a weight loss tool.
Cryolipolysis is the scientific term for cooling areas of the body to break down and reduce fat cells, without damaging the other tissues. While it won’t help you lose weight, it will sculpt the treatment areas to look trim and fit.
The human body has two types of fat: white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue. Each has their own function, and understanding them will help you better appreciate the concept of freezing unwanted body fat away.
White adipose tissue, or white fat cells provide your body with energy. This is the most abundant type of fat in the body, and it’s responsible for the fat around your waist and thighs. The white adipose tissues are the result of storing excess calories. When you consume too many calories, your body creates energy reserves in the form of the white adipose tissue. Each white fat cell contains a single lipid droplet, which is why it is usually white or yellowish in color.
Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat cells keep the body temperature stable by burning calories to generate heat. They are darker in color compared to the white adipose tissue because they contain many lipid droplets, and have a higher amount of iron-filled mitochondria. Brown adipose tissues are usually responsible for the fat accumulation around your neck.
These excess fat tissues are what cryolipolysis targets. When it gets cold, your body has to work more to keep you warm, and that effort burns off calories. Your body burns energy at a faster rate and depletes the brown fat lipid reserves, which reduces the amount of excess adipose tissues in the body.
This was discovered by scientists from Canada, who conducted the study by exposing a group of volunteers with high brown fat levels to cold temperatures. They found that these individuals would only start shivering at much lower temperatures, compared to those with low brown fat levels.
This indicates that their brown fat cells were hard at work keeping their bodies warm. They burned an extra 250 calories, which is a 1.8 times increase from the average calorie-burning rate. While they burned calories, the volunteers did not lose weight.
While it has been scientifically proven that cold temperatures can help you shed unwanted fat, does that mean ice packs have the same effect? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Utilizing ice packs to shrink fat tissue is not effective and even potentially dangerous for your skin. Here are the reasons why you should not attempt to use ice packs to get rid of unwanted fat tissue:
Ice packs are not an effective way of reducing fat tissue because you will not be able to get it cold enough to trigger apoptosis, or fat cell death. Ice packs cannot retain a consistent temperature, since your body transfers heat to the ice pack and warms it up.
Additionally, adipose tissues must be exposed to cold temperature ranging from -11 to +5 degrees Celsius for at least 35 minutes before they can be destroyed. Aside from being unable to keep your ice pack frozen for more than half an hour, you will not be able to monitor and regulate how cold it is. There is no way to adjust the temperature of your ice pack, and no way to know if your lipid cells are actually responding to the ice pack’s temperature.
A lipid cell typically moves inwards and away from the skin’s surface to protect themselves against cold external temperatures. Without a vacuum that will bring them up and secure them by the surface, your ice packs will not be able to penetrate the skin and freeze fat.
There are no safety mechanisms to control an ice pack with, and you will not be able to protect your skin, muscle, nerves or tissues. An ice pack must be cold enough to penetrate the adipose tissue, but not cold enough that it freezes your skin and damages the surrounding tissues in the target area.
For some patients, using a homemade ice pack may result in burns, scars, or blisters.
Many other cases reported patients suffering from frostbites after their attempt to freeze lipid cells at home. One case study found a 55-year old woman who used dry ice to create a belly ice pack, which she hoped would result in adipose tissue death. Instead, the outcome were full- and partial-thickness wounds to her abdomen, which damaged around 4% of her total body surface in that area.
Ice packs cannot isolate the treatment area, and keep the other tissues from being damaged. There is no precision in using an ice pack to reduce excess fat tissue, and it may result in damages to the skin, nerves, and muscles. Aside from frostbite, other risks include numbness, pain, and permanent tissue damage. Without supervision or guidance from a medical professional, attempts at home cryolipolysis are strongly advised against by most doctors and cosmetic surgeons.
If you are interested in removing undesired fat tissues and other love handles, CoolSculpting is a patented fat freezing cosmetic procedure cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012. While it is not a weight loss treatment, it targets the stubborn bulges in the following areas:
The patented CoolSculpting technology controls the temperature through a machine, suctions and freezes the fat tissues under the skin surface with an applicator, and protects the skin with a gel pad. It is safe, convenient, and effective.
At the NJ Center for CoolSculpting, our board-certified doctors guarantee long-lasting body contour results for all our CoolSculpting patients. We have performed over 5,000 CoolSculpting treatments at our high-end clinic, so we are experienced in consulting and guiding our clients through this procedure.
To learn more about CoolSculpting and how we can make sure you achieve your dream body, book a consultation with us today and get $1000 off your first treatment.
Read more: Can CoolSculpting Go Wrong?
"The treatment itself was not uncomfortable. Afterwords, I felt great. I didn't really notice anything for about 30 days. After day 30 until about a month later, I started noticing that my favorite jeans were not as tight anymore. I wasn't having to suck in to get them buttoned. And by that two month period after my CoolSculpting
"It's subtle at first, and then a month later you look and go, "Wow - It really did something!" It really moved the bar for me, and I'm feeling better about myself already. It feels so good to put on anything and know I look as good as I've ever looked. And I didn't say that or feel that when I was in my 20's, 30's, and 40's."