Body wraps are soaked and treated strips of cloth that you wrap around all or part of your body to allegedly lose weight and inches. Spas that offer body wraps tout them as a non-surgical weight-loss alternative and claim they help you lose weight, firm your skin, remove toxins from your body and reduce the circumference of treated body parts.
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Body wraps are intended to help you lose weight by shedding large quantities of water through sweat. Diets in Review claims that the detoxifying properties of the wrap treatment can help you jump-start your weight-loss program by removing the toxins from your body that prevent you from losing weight. Body wrap vendors such as Wrap Yourself Slim claim that the weight-loss can be permanent if followed up by a diet and exercise routine. Some body wrap companies also claim that the treatment relieves pain, removes cellulite and nourishes your skin.
Body wraps may be treated with an herbal, mineral or lipase solution. Other body wrap systems use seaweed, collagen treatments, clay or infrared technology. According to Neva J. Howell of Ask A Healer, herbal and clay wraps detoxify your body and “tone” your skin to give you a more “glowing” complexion, but won’t cause weight loss if not accompanied by a long-term diet and exercise weight-loss regimen. Howell claims that infrared treatments can burn up to 1,400 calories in a session, but doesn’t substantiate her claims with scientific evidence. Lipase wraps claim to remove fat by increasing the digestive enzymes that burn fat.
Reputable health experts — both traditional scientists and alternative medicine specialists — remind consumers that a body wrap is not a weight-loss quick-fix. Because all the weight you lose from a body wrap is the result of dehydration rather than fat loss, the pounds and inches will return within a few days, once you have re-hydrated. The U.S. Food and Drug administration reminds consumers that “fat doesn’t melt,” and any product claiming to “melt” fat or cellulite is making unsubstantiated claims. The Healthy Weight Network advises that you can spot a fraud if they claim quick weight loss without dieting, use testimonials rather than scientific studies and make claims that aren’t listed on the packaging.
The FDA has not evaluated many body wraps for effectiveness or safety. Many companies deliberately manipulate the wording of their claims to classify their wraps as “supplements” and therefore out of the jurisdiction of the FDA. Dr. Victor Herbert at Mt. Sinai Hospital and consultant for the website Quack Watch warns that the rapid dehydration from body wraps can cause hypovolemic shock — low blood volume as a result of dehydration — which may be fatal.
Before using a wrap, get an impartial physician’s clearance and discuss any medications you are taking with the technician. Read the ingredients and side effects carefully to avoid allergic reactions. Also, some clays have a high aluminum content. High doses of aluminum may lead to Alzheimer’s, so check the label.