It’s estimated that in the United States alone, more than one-third of the residents are classified as obese, carrying a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. Even more are considered overweight, with an estimated 2 billion adults all carrying around extra pounds. Each year there are new fad diets and products that get released, promising to help you melt away fat and target your problem areas. One of the more popular ones have been “wraps” that are supposed to burn fat, but really just make you lose water for temporary slimming.
Scientists, however, might have finally found something to put on your skin that could melt away those love handles and increase your metabolism. At the Columbia University Medical Center, they worked with experts from the University of North Carolina to come up with a patch that could eliminate pockets of fat to help people lose weight in the problem areas. So far, the patch has only been tested on mice, but the results have been positive.
The researchers that conducted the study said that humans have two types of fat, which includes brown fat that produces heat, but you lose almost all of it when you go into adulthood. The other type is white fat, which stores excess energy (i.e. calories) into triglyceride droplets, storing on parts of your body that you probably would rather they didn’t. If you’re able to turn white fat into brown fat, however, your body can use the fat for heat, eliminating it within a short period of time.
The patch is coated with drugs inside of nanoparticles that can only be seen with a microscope. A series of many needles then enters the skin, but these needles are so small that researchers say you won’t even feel them piercing you. Once in your skin, the needles release the drug gradually, turning the white fat into brown fat. One of the study’s co-authors, Li Qiang, was very pleased with what he saw from the testing.
“There are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections,” he said. “This exposes the whole body to the drugs, which can lead to side effects such as (upset stomach), weight gain and bone fractures. Our skin patch appears to alleviate these complications by delivering most drugs directly to the fat tissue.” But just how effective was it on the mice that were tested?
Surprisingly, things went quite well for the mice. Over the course of four weeks, mice were given a new patch every three days to test the drug on one sides of their abdomen, where you’d find the dreaded “love handles” on a human, but only one side to see how effective the drug could be in targeting specific areas. When the trial was finished, mice had lost 20 percent of the fat on the side that received the patch compared to no fat lost on the other side.
Mice that weren’t overweight also received benefits from the skin patch. These mice were able to increase their oxygen consumption, thus increasing their overall metabolism. Scientists in the study concluded that not only could the drug help to burn fat in a short amount of time, but it could also prevent future weight gain from happening, and reduce the chances of obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease.
How it will work on humans remains to be seen, as further testing needs to be done before going to clinical trial. However, the future looks brighter (and much slimmer) if the patch succeeds. “Many people will no doubt be excited to learn that we may be able to offer a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles,” said Dr. Qiang. “What’s more important is that our patch may provide a safe and effective means of treating obesity and related metabolic disorders such as diabetes.”
One big question that people have is how much the potential life saving patch would end up costing. Obviously, there’s a profit that has to be made, but it’s expected that it will end up being a cost effective treatment, especially if multiple companies are able to duplicate the same type of patch, creating an open market. Right now, the average cost of liposuction to remove fat is around $3,000 for just one area and can leave scarring. Similar treatments such as CoolSculpting cost around $750 for a one hour treatment, meaning that some people just can’t wait for the new patch to be approved for humans!