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Do Body Wraps Really Boost Fat Loss?

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The health, fitness and beauty industries are constantly overridden with promises of quick fixes and the latest minimal-effort weight loss techniques. They all guarantee astonishing results but rarely do they live up to the promise.

In this article we’ll delve into the world of body wraps and tell you whether or not they can help you burn fat.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What are body wraps?
  • What does the research say
  • What does help you burn fat?

What are Body Wraps?

Body wrapping has been common in salons and beauty establishments for many years, but is going through somewhat of a resurgence of sales at present. It involves wrapping the body firmly in blankets, plastic wraps, muslin or organic materials in order to build up body heat.

Common methods of this treatment involve a short fast of food and drink prior to treatment, followed by exfoliating of the skin, application of a base oil solution or cream, then wrapping various parts of the body in a shrink wrap-like material.

Once covered you remain in a static position under a heated blanket for an extended period of time – usually an hour or so – or complete exercise such as treadmill running.

Whilst the most common area for treatment is around the belly and midsection, although other parts or even all of the body can be wrapped as well.

You can pay to have a beautician or spa technician conduct the treatment for you, or you can purchase similar products and do it yourself at home. Either way they tend to be expensive endeavors that need to be repeated regularly to maintain any reported benefits.

Dependent on the type of product and brand, there are a number of claimed benefits – these range from improving circulation and ‘removing toxins’, to exfoliation and improved mineral levels.

It has even been claimed that this treatment can improve the appearance of cellulite and help you lose body fat, and as popularity for these treatments has increased, various celebrities have jumped at the chance to endorse the latest product, promising you that you can lose weight just like them – and with minimal effort.

Sounds promising? but can they really help you burn fat? Let’s see what the evidence says…


Plastic-Wrap-for-Losing-Weight

Key Point: Body wraps are reported to help improve circulation and ‘removing toxins’, as well as exfoliate skin and replace lost minerals in the body.


The Science – Do Body Wraps Help You Burn Fat?

One worrying aspect of many brands of these products is that they don’t use clinical trials to evidence that their products work – or even go to any lengths to hide the fact that no research exists. 

You’d think that the many claims made by promoters of these products would be grounded in solid science and clinical evidence, but surprisingly there are very few studies on this area – and the ones that do exist aren’t going to fill you with confidence.

For example, a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery [1] aimed to investigate whether topical cream or wraps could reduce cellulite in a group of women. They suggested that at the time, very little scientific evidence on these products existed so needed to be verified as a reliable weight loss option.

The women were split into one of two groups – they either received twice-daily applications of cream, or had twice weekly wraps to their thighs over a 12-week period. 

After the study, the researchers used ultrasound technology to assess any changes to the ladies’ thighs, as well as their body mass index to assess any weight loss. Cleverly, the research team also let the participants assess their results subjectively to see if they felt it had improved cellulite levels – they did this without letting them know the results of the ultrasound first.

The results showed that although 10 out of the 35 women thought their appearance had improved, no statistical difference existed in measurements between legs for any of the treatment groups. Neither thigh girth, depth of fat cells, or cellulite had been affected.

There was one study that found some slight ‘benefits’ to body wrapping – at least at face value anyway. Published in Applied Clay Science [2], researchers used a very small sample of 19 people over a 5 week period to assess the impact of clay body wraps on belly fat.

They split the volunteers in to two groups. One group did aerobic exercise only, whilst the other group did aerobic exercise whilst wearing a clay wrap with the addition of a micro-current – a small current passed to the muscles of the abdomen below sensitivity threshold.

The results suggested that the treatment helped the volunteers to lose ‘significantly’ more fat than the exercise only group, however this was only an extra 1 cm loss. These effects are far from worth the costs of spa days or expensive products.

It also shows that the addition of exercise is an extremely important variable in the journey for fat loss as both groups positively changed their body composition.


Body-Wraps-for-Fat-Loss

Key Point: There is little to no evidence that suggests the link between body wrapping and increased fat loss.


Are There any Side Effects to Body Wrapping?

The most severe potential side effect is dehydration. The main action of these wraps appears to be the fact that they can reduce water volume quite quickly – and they achieve this by creating a dehydrating effect.

The short fasting period prior to wrapping can reduce water levels in the body, and the combination of sweating and increased urination due to tight pressure on the bladder can accelerate water loss even further.

Additionally, applying tight materials to the chest wall may restrict normal breathing capacity by as much as 35% [3] – this can lead the body to compensate by elevating heart rate and decreasing blood volume. This could signal bad news for anyone with lung or vascular issues.

There are also a number of other potential side effects that may affect your health. These include:

  • Claustrophobia
  • Bloating
  • Overheating
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of motor control
  • Reduced blood volume causing irregular heart rhythms

Summary – Can a Body Wrap Really Boost Fat Loss Results?

Body wraps are a type of treatment that involve wrapping the body firmly in blankets, plastic, muslin or organic materials in order to improve circulation, reduce body fat and improve the appearance of cellulite.

Common methods of body wrapping involve participating in a short fasting period prior to treatment, followed by exfoliating of the skin, application of a base oil solution or cream, then wrapping various parts of the body.

There is a minimal amount of clinical evidence on this treatment, particularly evidence that backs up the claims made by many product makers. From the trials that have taken place it can be concluded that any changes in appearance or inch loss are not due to body fat, and are most probably just the effect of short-term dehydration.

Fasting prior to, and sweating during the treatment, will contribute to net water loss. This is a short-term change as fluid balance will be restored once the user re-hydrates themselves.

You need to be aware that the dehydrating effect of this treatment may cause side effects such as overheating, dizziness or loss of motor control which can put your health at risk.


What Does Work for Fat Loss?

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  • Appetite Control – Reduce food cravings and stay on strict diets with minimal effort
  • Day-Long Fat Burning – Boost your metabolic fire

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References

  1. Collis, N et al. Cellulite treatment: a myth or reality: a prospective randomized, controlled trial of two therapies, endermologie and aminophylline cream. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1999; 104(4): 1110-4
  2. Melo, ASC et al. Clay body wrap with microcurrent: Effects in central adiposity. Applied Clay Science. 2013; 80-81: 140-146
  3. Miller, JD et al. Cardiorespiratory effects of inelastic chest wall restriction. J Appl Physiol. 2002; 92: 2419-2428


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