Everything You Need to Know About Weight Loss Patches 

Dr. Christopher McGowan
August 10, 2022

The weight loss industry is well known for promoting endless weight loss products and systems that promise easy or rapid weight loss. From fad diets to expensive exercise equipment, there are numerous ways that people attempt to lose excess body weight. In the last few decades, though, various new medications and dietary supplements have become available that offer even more options. One recent innovation that similarly claims to be effective at losing weight is weight loss patches. But do they really work? 

What Are Transdermal Patches?   

When you hear someone talking about a weight loss patch, they’re actually referring to a method of medication delivery known as a transdermal patch. A transdermal patch is a medicated patch that attaches to the skin via adhesive, like a sticker. Medication on the underside of the patch is delivered to the bloodstream by slowly being absorbed through the skin. In general, the primary benefit of a transdermal patch is the controlled release of medication over time, which can sometimes be preferable to punctuated doses.   

One of the major disadvantages of a transdermal patch, however, is that some medications are composed of molecules that are simply too big to be absorbed through the skin. This unfortunately limits the type of applications the medical technology can be used for. One of the best known examples of a transdermal patch is a nicotine patch; these deliver small amounts of nicotine in an effort to help people quit smoking. Other patches can be used for treatment in a variety of scenarios, including menopause, motion sickness, Alzheimer’s disease, and high blood pressure.   

What Is a Weight Loss Patch?   

Like other types of transdermal patches, weight loss patches (or slimming patches) are  medicated adhesive patches that attach to the skin. They are now widely available for sale online on sites like Amazon. The manufacturers of these patches recommend locating it on an area of body fat that is being targeted, such as the thighs, hips, or belly. The patches work, allegedly, by delivering any active ingredients directly to the area where fat burning is desired. Though there is plenty of evidence that the technology itself is effective at delivering some medications, the actual type of substance being delivered is the most important feature. 

What Is in a Weight Loss Patch?   

The active ingredients in a weight loss patch are selected to theoretically boost metabolism and promote the breakdown of carbs. There are a variety of different patches available, and they all offer a combination of herbal and natural ingredients that are believed to assist with losing weight. Below are some of the most popular substances that can be found in weight loss patches: 

  • Green tea extract: Green tea has long been popular because of its perceived benefits, including its potential impact on weight loss. Studies have not found significant evidence for these claims, though some researchers are looking into the possible health benefits of the polyphenols found in green tea. 
  • Green coffee bean extract: This extract of unroasted green coffee beans has a high concentration of chlorogenic acid, a phenolic compound found in green coffee that may assist with weight loss. Recent studies have found some evidence to support this, but the results are still largely inconclusive. 
  • Japanese mint: Though this is often referred to as Japanese mint, the plant is actually native to both North America and other parts of Asia. While there is some evidence that mint can be beneficial for digestion and metabolism, there is unfortunately no real evidence that it can be successfully absorbed through the skin enough to contribute to weight loss. 
  • Griffonia seeds: The seeds of the griffonia plant are high in 5-HTP, a naturally occurring amino acid that aids in the biosynthesis of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in a variety of cognitive and physiological processes, including the regulation of appetite. 5-HTP has been shown to have an appetite suppressant effect, but there hasn’t been enough research to determine whether it is effective via a transdermal patch.
  • Fucus vesiculosus: Fucus vesiculosus is a type of seaweed that has a long history of medicinal uses. It is claimed by some to contribute to weight loss, but there is currently no solid evidence to support the claim.  
  • Ephedra: Ephedrine, a medication derived from the ephedra plant, has been heavily regulated because of concerns about safety. More recently, though, ephedra supplements have been included in some weight loss patches because of the potential appetite suppression qualities; thus far, there is no conclusive evidence that supports this.  
  • Acai berry: Acai is often paired with other ingredients because of the purported health benefits. While acai berries have some nutritional value when processed through the digestive system, there is little evidence to suggest that it can be absorbed through the skin. 
  • Bitter orange: This orange extract is included in weight loss patches because it contains synephrine, a stimulant that has a similar effect on appetite as ephedrine. No scientific studies have been done on whether it can work in a transdermal patch, however. 
  • Flaxseed oil: Like several other substances found in weight loss patches, flaxseed oil is likely much more valuable when ingested than being absorbed through the skin. There is no evidence that flaxseed oil is beneficial in weight loss patches. 
  • Yerba mate: There is some evidence that the polyphenols found in yerba mate may have beneficial effects on cravings and satiety as well as the metabolism of fat cells and cholesterol, but it is unclear if the same benefits might work via weight loss patch. 

Weight Loss Patches: Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the claims associated with weight loss patches should be treated with skepticism. Because transdermal patches themselves are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there hasn’t been much research into their effectiveness in delivering weight loss supplements. Additionally, the claimed benefits of the individual ingredients most commonly found in these patches are mostly not backed by current research. Based on the scientific data available, weight loss patches likely have little to no effect on one’s ability to lose weight. 

True You Weight Loss Solutions

The truth is that weight loss patches aren’t an effective weight management treatment for overweight or obesity. But if you’re like many other people who try to lose weight, you’ve tried many methods without much lasting success. Weight gain and weight loss are complex processes that involve many different biological, chemical, and lifestyle factors. This is why low calorie diets and intense exercise regimens are difficult to maintain over the long haul. You may even lose a significant amount of weight at first, but for a lot of people the weight gets added back on or even increases. 

At True You Weight Loss, we offer alternative weight loss solutions that are designed to help you lose weight and keep it off. With our guidance, these medications can assist you in your weight loss goals along with changes to diet and exercise levels. If you would like to learn more about what True You can offer, please contact us today to request a consultation

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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