Science Questions

Can shrink wrap help you lose weight?

Thu, 7th Mar 2013

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Question

Magnus asked:

Hi, this is Magnus from Edinburgh,

 

I've just heard of body wraps, which are apparently a way that people are using to lose a lot of weight and fat off themselves.

 

It seems to be very effective, and that instantly worries me.

 

They apparently kill fat cells through lysis, which just sounds dangerous to me.

 

Could you illuminate that area?

 

Thanks!

Answer

Hannah - So, for the princely price of about 60 great British pounds I can pop down to my local beauty clinic and get a body wrap treatment! They will slather my body with cream, wrap me tightly in shrink wrap, and leave me laying there, looking rather squished and peculiar, under a heated blacket for 90 mins, and itís claimed that, when unwrapped, Iíll have lost inches!

Rather than testing the procedure out in the office, as my boss suggests, instead I turn to Dr Stephen OíRahilly, Director of the Metabolic Research Laboratories at Cambridge University and Professor Steven Bloom from Imperial College London.

Stephen - Magnus is spot on here in smelling a rat. Firstly, shrinking violet body wraps won't work. Lipolysis which is the breakdown of triglycerides and fat to its constituent free fatty acids and glycerol is a highly controlled and sophisticated biochemical process, and no amount of wrapping will induce this to occur in the fat cells.

Secondly, if it didnít work, it would actually be dangerous. The reason our bodies have all the fat cells was to make a relatively safe place to store excess energy and a place for much energy to be released during times when food is scarce. If we suddenly release a large amount of fat from our fat cells, it would have to go somewhere. We know this is very bad news because patients who, for genetic or other reasons can't make adequate number of fat cells develop severe metabolic side effects including diabetes, pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, all as a result of this toxic fat going somewhere where it shouldnít be out of fat cells and into other tissues. So, not only is this idea nonsense, itís potentially dangerous nonsense.

Hannah - So, if there's no fat cell breakdown going on, what about this claim that you lose inches once unveiled? Professor Stephen Bloom from Imperial College London has this to sayÖ

Stephen B. - Sweat a little with no food or drink and pee out from the pressure on the body fluids of the wrapping and you're certainly lighter on the scale. Unfortunately, all youíve lost is water and as soon as you get back home feeling thirsty, have a glass of water or two, this comes flooding back and your weight will go back up again.

Hannah - Hmm, I might give body wraps a miss and up for a bit of exercise and healthy eating instead.

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I know some wrestlers like exercising in watertight clothing, and sweats.  I always thought it was just to loose "water weight". 

I suppose the idea is that you will loose sweat, whether it is stuck inside of your clothing or allowed to evaporate, but your body will not get the cooling benefit from evaporative cooling when wearing waterproof exercise clothing, and thus you would be warmer and sweat more.

I would also be suspicious of wonder-wraps for long-term weight loss, but I'll be curious what is discussed in the interview. CliffordK, Wed, 6th Mar 2013

Please get your facts correct on application and procedure before talking about this product. Thank you Patricia, Wed, 29th May 2013

Hmmm very interesting to read. I'm a bit confused though, if it is water loss why do they say to drink loads of water straight after your treatment? Thats for Shrinking violet wraps anyway. Surely this would go against the rules if it is water loss? Anna, Fri, 4th Oct 2013

I spent a fortune on a course of the shrinking violet body wrap, complete waste of money, only lost fluid by sweat, lost more cash than fat ! Sammy, Sun, 3rd Nov 2013

Love Shrinking Violet - phospholipids rock Jenny , Sun, 1st Dec 2013

well now there are independent clinical trials so all above proven to be rubbish Emma Jenson, Wed, 21st May 2014

Hi guys I have had one of these wraps this morning, lost around 5 inches which I wasn't majorly chuffed about as have lost more doing the aloe Vera diet. Anyway my question is, I haven't had much advice, aftercare guidance, apart from don't exercise for 12 hours, drink fizzy pop or tea coffee and alcohol. Should I be mindful of what I eat etc, I felt ok having it done but am beginning to feel a little sick. It was 11:30 this morning. Thanks guys Beki, Sat, 12th Jul 2014

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