To diet patch or not?

Originally Published: February 10, 2006
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Dear Alice,

I really need to lose some weight because I am unhappy with the way I look. I have been about the same weight and the same size as long as I can remember, but I know if I can get the weight off, I can keep it off. I exercise regularly and eat a fairly good diet and I don't understand why the weight won't come off. I read about these new diet patches that are ephedera-free and free of harmful substances. They contain fucus vesiculosus and I was wondering if it is harmful and if it will negatively affect my birth control pill. Please write back soon.

Thanks a lot,
BR

Dear BR,

It sounds like you are upset with your lack of perceived results even though you stick to a workout regimen and  eat a balanced diet.  It can be discouraging to work very hard at something and not reach the outcome you desire.  It may be helpful to remember that working out regularly and eating right will not only help you get into better shape, but to be healthy. 

Recently, there are more and more diet patches on the market that advertise fucus vesiculosus, or bladder wrack, as its active ingredient.  Fucus vesiculosus is a brown algae found primarily in the North Sea, the western Baltic Sea, and the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The main component in fucus vesiculosus that could potentially be related to weight loss is iodine, which manufacturers claim will stimulate the thyroid gland to speed up metabolism.  While theoretically possible, there is no scientific evidence that substantiates this claim or proves that using this alga for weight loss is safe.

There is also no substantial research that suggests fucus vesiculosus will have an effect, negative or positive, on your birth control.  The few studies that have been done on the effects of this alga suggest that it could be harmful to people with particular medical conditions.  The patch may be dangerous for people with diabetes or heart problems, as it could negatively effect insulin levels and cause heart palpitations. 

Overall, you may want to be weary about diet patches and other "miracle" weight loss products.  Some of these products state that they will visibly change your appearance starting within three days.  Unfortunately, this claim appears scientifically impossible.  What does seem to be evident is that those who do begin to lose weight do so solely based on their improved nutrition and exercise regimen, which the manufacturers of diet patches recommend be used in conjunction with them. 

A wise woman once said, "If a product’s claim seems too good to be true, it probably is." 

For more information about healthy ways to lose weight, check out Alice’s Food and Nutrition archive.

Alice