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Do weight loss patches work?

The science behind weight loss patches.

The Truth About Weight Loss Patches: Do They Work? | Juniper

If you're on a quest to lose weight, it's probably led you down some interesting paths. From the latest trending diet to waist trainers and skinny teas, there are so many methods that claim to be the silver bullet for weight loss success.

Perhaps in your late-night Googling of "What is the best way to lose weight?" you've stumbled upon weight loss patches.

What are these mysterious Japanese weight loss patches, exactly, and how do they work? Can they actually help you lose weight, and are there any unpleasant side effects you should be concerned about?

Read on for everything you need to know about weight loss patches, so you can weigh up if they're right for you.

What is a weight loss patch?

Otherwise known as slim patches, weight loss patches are adhesive bandages applied to the skin. Like nicotine patches, they fall into the category of transdermal patches. But, instead of fending off cigarette cravings, the manufacturers of weight loss patches claim they contain active ingredients that promote weight loss.

The patches work via an embedded delivery system, which releases these ingredients onto the skin's surface. Unlike dietary supplements, the active ingredients in these patches bypass the digestive system and are released straight into the bloodstream.

Instructions usually suggest wearing the weight loss patch for 6-8 hours per day, 3-4 days a week. While weight loss patches are typically worn across the belly button, there's no research that indicates the placement actually matters.

What are the ingredients used in these patches?

Some of the common ingredients used in these adhesive patches include green coffee bean extract, green tea extract, bitter orange extract and Japanese mint [1]. Essential oils, garcinia cambogia and (concerningly) a nervous system stimulant called ephedrine, are sometimes used, too [2].

Other, less common ingredients in weight loss patches are CBD (Cannabidiol) oil and the herb ashwagandha [1]. However, these are used more for their stress-relief properties than their weight-loss benefits.

Do weight loss patches work?

It's important to note there have been no peer-reviewed studies into weight loss patches. Therefore, more research should be done to understand their effectiveness.

But, here's what we do know so far. Manufacturers of these weight loss patches claim that they help you 'lose weight while you sleep', by reducing your appetite and revving your metabolism. That comes down mainly to the active ingredients they use.

Some of these natural ingredients have actually been found to have some (minimal) weight loss benefits. For example, some studies show that green tea extract can aid weight loss, by increasing the amount of calories burned through a process called thermogenesis [3].

However, this effect is fairly negligible, and green tea extract would have to be consumed in vast amounts to reap any benefits.

While some early studies backed the weight loss benefits of green coffee extract, these have since been debunked [4]. There are also no studies supporting the use of Japanese mint for weight loss.

While there are some studies indicating that garcinia cambogia can lead to reduced cravings [5], this seems to mainly come down to creating feelings of fullness (which might also come with a side of discomfort).

Another issue with weight loss patches is the lack of transparency around the volume or potency of the ingredients. As they're not FDA-approved, manufacturers aren't obligated to print this information on their packaging. So, even if certain ingredients have weight loss benefits, it's difficult to know if the patch contains enough of it to make an impact.

Comparatively, certain classes of oral weight loss medications have been proven to be highly effective. Countless studies and anecdotal evidence show that when combined with a healthy diet, it can lead to significant weight loss that actually stays off.

Do weight loss patches have side effects?

As there is no official authority to regulate weight loss patches, it's difficult to know what the side effects may be. It depends largely on the ingredients inside that particular patch.

For example:

  • Green coffee bean extract has been linked to side effects like upset stomach, nausea, anxiety and shaking.
  • Green tea extract has not been found to have any side effects, but it has not been studied specifically in weight loss patches.
  • Otherwise known as Hokutu tea, Japanese mint tea is often sold as an essential oil — and generally, it's not a good idea to apply these oils directly to the skin, as it can be irritating, and damage the skin barrier.
  • As mentioned, ephedrine or ephedra, is highly dangerous. It's typically used to treat clinical hypotension but was banned for weight loss uses by the FDA in 2004. It's been linked to kidney failure, heart disease and even seizures [1]. Other side effects include anxiety, nausea, shakiness, a dry mouth and difficulty sleeping [7].

How to approach weight loss holistically

While some of the ingredients in weight loss patches may help speed up the metabolism or reduce appetite, the results are likely to be minor. Therefore, it's safe to say it's not a reliable way to lose weight. And, in light of the potential side effects, it's likely just not worth the risk.

What's far more effective is to rely on sustainable, science-backed methods for weight loss. This includes:

A healthy diet

Yes, we know — cue the eye roll, as you've no doubt heard a million times that a healthy diet is important for weight loss. But, you can think of it like fuel for a high-performance car. Sure, any old petrol is going to get you going, but some are more efficient than others.

In other words, a calorie is a calorie — but certain foods like vegetables, high-quality protein, good fats and unrefined carbs are going to give you more bang for your buck when it comes to caloric density and nutritional value.

What's important to note is that a sustainable, healthy diet is going to look different for everyone. Some people who are highly active during the day need plenty of healthy carbs to fuel themselves.

Others feel more energised on lower carbs or even a plant-based diet. Essentially, the best diet is one that you can actually enjoy, and stick to over time.

Physical activity

While diet (and biological factors like hormones and metabolism) are the foundations of weight loss, exercise is an important ally. You don't necessarily have to work out to lose weight, but it can certainly help give you an advantage. Beyond the obvious fact that it helps you burn more calories, exercise has plenty of other benefits for weight loss, too.

For example, strength training can help to build lean muscle — which can replace fat and help create that 'toned' look. Plus, cardio exercise like HIIT has not only been found to quickly burn calories, but it actually keeps your body burning calories at rest for hours after [8].

Much like diet, exercise isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. There are hundreds of different types of exercise — from Pilates and CrossFit to ballet or surfing. It's all about finding something that fits your unique needs, preferences and lifestyle.

Lifestyle changes

Unfortunately, weight loss is rarely an overnight fix. It's about what you do consistently every day, over the course of weeks or months. This doesn't have to mean overhauling your entire life, all at once.

Instead, it can be about gradually implementing small changes — which over time, can add up to big results. Research shows that making behavioural changes (think, getting in more incidental exercise or drinking more water) can lead to a loss of around 10% of initial weight loss within 16-26 weeks [9].

And, the good news is, you don't have to do it alone — having a coach and a supportive community can go a long way in helping you stick to healthy habits.

Mental health

This is one aspect of losing weight that is often overlooked. Weight loss is often as much mental as it is physical. Our emotions can often lead us to develop eating habits that don't serve us, like overeating when we're stressed or sad.

Research shows that chronic stress makes it significantly more difficult to lose weight too, as the body tends to go into survival mode and hang on to body fat [10]. It's important to tackle the mental health aspect from the inside out, by working with a therapist or coach.

A clinical approach

If your previous weight loss attempts have left you frustrated and disheartened, you're not alone. There's a multitude of factors that can affect your ability to lose weight, including your age, gender, metabolism and hormones. It's important to consult with a medical professional to ensure all these important pieces of the puzzle are under control.

This is where Juniper's Weight Reset Programme can come in — designed for long-term weight management, this holistic programme is designed by medical experts and health coaches to tackle the root causes of why you're gaining weight.

The programme combines semaglutide, a GLP-1 medication that works to regulate your digestion and decrease your appetite, with health coaching and 1-on-1 health tracking with your Juniper clinician to help you lose weight and keep it off for good.

Take our online consultation to find out if Juniper's Weight Reset Programme is right for you.

Image credit: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash