Weight Loss

Do Weight Loss Patches Work? Effectiveness, Side Effects, Uses

Losing weight is hard, and it’s understandable to at least have questions about quick-fix solutions you may come across during your search for the best weight loss option for you. Enter weight loss patches.

These stick-on patches promise to help slim your body, all from what is essentially a glorified sticker. But what are weight loss patches, exactly, and do these devices actually work?

What are weight loss patches?

Weight loss patches are bandages that contain certain ingredients the manufacturers claim will help the wearer lose weight. Once the adhesive patches are applied, they’re supposed to transfer the ingredients to your body over time.

There are different weight loss patches on the market, including some that contain a little ball of ingredients that goes inside your belly button (and are held in place by the adhesive).

What is in weight loss patches?

These patches are considered supplements and therefore aren’t tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, it’s hard to know for sure what is in these patches, points out Jessica Cording, R.D., author of The Little Book of Game Changers. However, the following ingredients come up often with weight loss patches:

  • Acai. Acai is a type of fruit that is “packed with antioxidants which may lead to decreased inflammation in the body,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. “However, believing that leads to weight loss when absorbed through the skin is not scientifically proven at all,” she adds.
  • Green coffee extract. This is “basically coffee beans that haven’t been roasted,” Cording says, adding that there’s “not a lot of research on them and weight loss.” Green coffee extract “has been associated with a decrease in fat cells and increase in energy” when it’s eaten, Gans says. But, she adds, “it’s not even conclusively proven” to help you lose weight when it’s ingested and “certainly not” proven when it’s applied to your skin.
  • Garcinia cambogia. Garcinia cambogia is believed to suppress appetite but is not scientifically proven to work, Gans says. Cording calls this ingredient a “big red flag,” noting that it’s been associated with liver toxicity.

“These are all ‘superfoods’ that have a ton of antioxidants and have been linked—with little to no evidence—to weight loss in the past,” says Gina Keatley, C.D.N., co-owner of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. “The only thing that has changed is the delivery system.”

Weight loss patch side effects

It’s difficult to say with certainty what the side effects can be from weight loss patches, given that it’s hard to know what’s actually in them, Cording says. However, experts say a few things could happen.

“With the patches, the body may not be able to absorb any benefit from these food products,” Keatley says. “Our skin is not great at absorbing stuff—which is a good thing—but to increase absorption, some manufacturers may use chemicals that help bring ‘stuff’ through the skin and into the blood stream.” This, she says, is “dangerous” because your skin’s protective barrier can’t differentiate between good nutrients and things like harmful heavy metals.

Also, if you’re on any medications, Gans says that there’s a chance using a weight loss patch could interfere with your medication’s effectiveness.

Do weight loss patches work?

Experts say there’s really no data to support using these. “Best case scenario is we don’t have research to support that they work,” Cording says. “Worst case, they can kill you.”

Keatley strongly discourages people from using weight loss patches. “Ask yourself, why patches?” she says. “If your life is so hectic that the only way to get weight loss is a patch, then you may be very, very out of balance.”

Instead, she suggests taking three days to track your meals. “See if you’re eating too little or too much and start there,” she says. “Skip the patches.”

Cording also recommends taking a pass on using weight loss patches. “They are so ridiculous,” she says. “These are not a reliable weight-loss option.”

Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.

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