Can shrink wrap help you lose weight?

Can a shrink-wrap treatment that claims to kill fat through lysis of fat cells be healthy? Would it really work?
07 March 2013



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?



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 it's claimed that, when unwrapped, I'll have lost inches! Rather than testing the procedure out in the office, as my boss suggests, instead I turn to Dr Stephen O'Rahilly, 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 didn't 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 shouldn't be out of fat cells and into other tissues. So, not only is this idea nonsense, it's 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 say.

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 you've 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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