Transdermal Patches for Weight Loss: Safe or Sorry?En Español (Spanish Version)
Any product that promises to help you lose unwanted pounds while also dropping your blood pressure, clearing your skin, stabilizing your blood sugar, and elevating your mood sounds like a great thing. Companies marketing weight-loss patches have their own test results supporting these claims, as well as loads of personal testimonies attributing major health benefits to patch use. And considering that many American adults are overweight or
, effective weight loss strategies are certainly needed. But do weight-loss patches really work and are they safe?
A wide variety of skin, or transdermal, weight- and fat-loss patch products are available for purchase on the Internet. Some focus on dropping pounds overall by “resetting your body chemistry;” others are designed to shed fat by “revving up your fat-burning furnace.” In their marketing, the patches are said to influence the body’s metabolism by altering the hormones involved in weight management. All patches contain a collection of ingredients, mainly herbal, that enter the body through the skin.
Patches are usually worn on a hairless, lean part of the body like the shoulder, wrist, or ankle. A new patch is applied daily. Skin patches are designed to provide even dosing over a 24-hour period.
The skin patches claim to act in two basic ways: by boosting metabolism and reducing appetite. Some ingredients claim to rev up the metabolism; others put a curb on appetite and cravings. Many patches promise other benefits, including increased lean body mass, boosted energy, lower blood pressure, and improved alertness. But, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which investigates fraudulent and deceptive business practices, reports that these weight-loss claims are "bogus."
As with any herbal remedy, many weight-loss patch ingredients are classified as “natural plant derivatives.” This label does not automatically mean that they are safe. Safety issues are not readily known for many patch ingredients, but consumers using a weight-loss skin patch should be aware that they are allowing herbal drugs to enter their bodies. Therefore, it is wise to consult a doctor before using these patches, especially if you are taking any prescribed medicines or have any chronic conditions.
There is no shortage of anecdotal success stories from weight-loss patch believers who profess to have lost lots of weight and achieved considerably improved health. But, is it due to the patch? Or, could it be the increased attention to a healthy lifestyle?
One manufacturer openly explained that patch use “puts a whole new idea in your head how to get healthier.” So perhaps weight-loss patch believers are experiencing positive results because of healthy changes to their lifestyles, along with—or wholly aside from—patch use.
For those who do claim to lose weight or fat while wearing a patch, the loss happens gradually in most cases. However, most patch marketers advertise that long-term weight- and fat-loss maintenance is best achieved with a proper diet and exercise plan. No surprise there. There still appears to be no getting around the fact that changes in lifestyle, like improved diet and more exercise, are needed to keep the pounds off—and keep healthy—for good.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Drugs and Supplements. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DrugHerbIndex. Accessed November 15, 2010.
FTC: skin patches do not cause weight loss. Federal Trade Commission website. Available at: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/12/transdermal.shtm. Published December 15, 2004. Accessed November 7, 2011.
Kurtzweil P. How to spot health fraud. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm137284.htm. Published February 25, 2010. Accessed November 7, 2011.
Pittler MH, Ernst E. Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):529-36.
Weighing the evidence in diet ads. Federal Trade Commission website. Available at:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/health/evidence.htm. Accessed October 10, 2005.
Last Reviewed November 2011