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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008, 12:53 GMT
Fat fighting, Los Angeles style
By David Willis
BBC News, Los Angeles

The door opened and in she walked - as skinny as a coat of paint with show-stopping cleavage, flashing the greatest smile money could buy.

CC undergoes the lipodissolve treatment
CC hopes the treatment will give her a perfectly-sculpted physique
Year-round tan, legs up to here. A Bond-girl body which had clearly been the regular recipient of sea-salt wraps and expensive exfoliations.

Yet CC's body was not quite the shape she wanted it to be.

A niggling layer of fat - virtually undetectable to the naked eye - clung stubbornly to her inner thigh, refusing to yield even in the face of a daily exercise routine rigorous enough to bring a Greek god to his knees.

Like many women in Los Angeles, CC demonstrates the sort of devotion to physical perfection which in some other parts of the world would be seen as obsessive.

In her case peer pressure undoubtedly plays a part. As host of her own internet TV show she mixes it with some of the most glamorous people on the planet.

A fixture at the very poshest parties and premieres, there is hardly a red carpet in town which has yet to cushion CC's perfectly pedicured feet.

'The new Botox'

Yet when the time came for the love handles to leave she wavered. Uneasy about going under the knife she shopped around only to discover there was another option, a procedure called lipodissolve.

Lipodissolve represents a potential goldmine for doctors, which may explain why clinics are sprouting up faster than Starbucks
Once injected into the fat a chemical known as PCDC, which is derived from soya bean, breaks the fat down.

After a short series of injections, a few weeks apart, those festively plump areas are soon a thing of the past.

Cosmetic surgeons call it a "miracle cure," yet the treatment has been banned in several countries (including the UK) and has yet to gain regulatory approval here in the US.

"It's the new Botox," CC told me excitedly as a Beverly Hills doctor discharged a syringe of the magic potion into the perfectly brown flesh of her upper right thigh.

Botox, I need not remind you, is a derivative of botulism. A toxin used to paralyse muscles in the face, freeze frown lines, and iron out wrinkles.

It is now the most popular non-surgical procedure in America. Health regulators took a while to get enthused about that as well. Something to do with injecting a deadly toxin into your body - I can't imagine why.

Yet amongst the rich and the famous, Botox is now de rigueur. The little vial of poison has become a latter day elixir, hailed by Beverly Hills "ladies who lunch" as a veritable fountain of youth.

'Lunchtime lipo'

Some believe lipodissolve could go the same way. It is a non-invasive procedure so there are neither cuts nor stitches to mar the body beautiful.

The lipodissolve treatment
Critics of the treatment question what happens to the dissolved fat
The injection takes about 15 minutes (hence its nickname 'lunchtime lipo') and unlike those old-fashioned methods of losing weight - such as dieting and exercise - the results are evident within a matter of days.

The only side effects, so it is said, are a slight swelling and numbness around the area where the needle pricked the flesh.

Try telling all that to the growing number of women who report problems with lipodissolve.

One, who wanted to lose some fat remaining from a pregnancy, reportedly developed a lump the size of a tennis ball after the treatment led to an infection in her abdomen.

It took a week in hospital to recover, and her stomach is now the shape of a spoon.

Another person who does not have a good word to say about lipodissolve is Dr Brian Kinney of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

A medical man of the old school he nonetheless proudly showed off his assistant's nose job ("all my own work") before rounding on the latest unproven practice in his profession.

Health risks

The greatest concern is - what happened to the fat once it was dissolved?

Did it somehow find its way to the kidneys and thence into the urine? Or meander into the liver only to be metabolised? Or somehow wriggle into the muscles only to be burned up?

Nobody who carried out the procedure seemed to know.

"There's a lot of basic science that still needs to be done," Dr Kinney told me. "The danger is that instead of going out looking more beautiful the patient goes out maimed or disfigured."

In a country suffering an obesity epidemic, the notion of an elite group spending thousands of dollars fine-tuning their fat seems self-indulgent to say the least.

Lipodissolve represents a potential goldmine for doctors, which may explain why clinics are sprouting up faster than Starbucks coffee shops.

Yet patients like CC say the results are amazing and contend the treatment represents the perfect answer for those who are not able or simply do not have the time to lose weight naturally.

With a flash of those perfectly white teeth she told me she would be back for another injection in a few weeks time.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 5 January, 2008 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.

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