How do weight-loss products such as SlimScents and Aroma Patch work?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

These scent-based weight-loss products deliver aromas that are supposed to reduce your appetite. The Aroma Patch is worn on your hand, wrist or chest. SlimScents is inhaled through your nose before meals.

Another scent-based product, the powdered food additive Sensa, and its developer, Alan Hirsch, M.D., recently were fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making false claims of effectiveness. The FTC banned the product, which has since been pulled from the market.

Still on the market, Aroma Patch and SlimScents point to a study by Dr. Hirsh to bolster their claims. That study, which was reported in a medical journal, showed that volunteers who used an aroma inhaler lost an average of 2 percent of their body weight over six months. However, the study lasted only six months, so it didn't look at whether participants were able to maintain the weight loss over time.

A study on the effects of odors on appetite concluded that smelling food odors, such as banana and chocolate, increased appetite, while nonfood odors, such as pine and grass, decreased appetite.

So can scent-based weight-loss products lead to significant, sustainable weight loss? The jury is still out. Even some of the makers of these weight-loss products acknowledge that losing weight comes down to diet and exercise.

It makes more sense, then, to skip the scents and focus on what's proven to work — reducing the calories you eat and increasing the calories you burn through exercise.

Dec. 24, 2014