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Zyn Nicotine Pouches Aren't the New Ozempic

Zyn nicotine pouches have been increasingly used for weight loss due to their alleged appetite-suppressing properties. Experts say there is no evidence that these pouches can help to slim down.

Nicotine pouches are held between the user's lip and gum, where the nicotine dissolves in the mouth without requiring spitting. The patches typically contain nicotine salts, delivering higher levels of nicotine than the free-base nicotine in most smokeless tobacco products.

Nicotine pouches are promoted as easy to use and cost-effective compared to cigarettes — Zyn costs $5 for about 15 pouches. In the United States, Zyn has three and six-milligram strengths, while other brands offer even higher nicotine content.

Earlier this year, Philip Morris International announced that it shipped 350 million cans of Zyn in 2023, a 62% increase from the previous year.

Nik Bando, an Instagram influencer, claimed he lost 30 pounds (13.6 kg) in a month by "replacing any hunger with Zyn."

Therefore, pouches have been dubbed O-zyn-pic, as users compare them with Ozempic and other type 2 diabetes and weight loss drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which help to shed up to 20% of the body weight.

Political commentator and journalist Tucker Carlson has touted Zyn pouches for improving productivity and even sexual performance despite evidence associating the use of nicotine with an increased risk of erectile dysfunction.

Social media users also claimed that soaking Zyn pouches in deer blood boosts nutrients and cognitive function, ignoring the risks of contracting several diseases, such as anaplasmosis and brucellosis.

Does nicotine help with weight loss?

Nicotine suppresses appetite by activating neurons in the brain, called POMC neurons, that are also engaged by other weight loss medications like naltrexone/bupropion and semaglutide, according Beverly Tchang, M.D., a triple board-certified physician with a focus on obesity medicine.

Although a study in mice found that the combination of nicotine and liraglutide, a GLP-1 agonist sold under the brand names Victoza and Saxenda, causes weight loss, Tchang says there haven't been any studies in humans.

The authors of the study, published in Cell Reports, emphasized that nicotine is not an appropriate weight loss drug candidate.

Theodore Friedman, M.D., a professor of medicine at UCLA School of Medicine and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science, warns that weight loss with nicotine pouches may be dangerous.

He says that smokers are, on average, leaner than nonsmokers, but they also have insulin resistance and a higher rate of diabetes and heart disease.

Nicotine itself may lead to weight loss, but animal studies with nicotine and e-cigarettes suggest that nicotine breaks down beneficial subcutaneous fat in the thighs and buttock with deposition of the fat in the heart and liver, which is more detrimental. The weight loss with nicotine pouches is likely to be mild with weight gain expected upon stopping them.

Friedman

Tchang also cautioned people not to experiment with nicotine pouches for weight loss because it is still unknown what dose is needed and what dose is toxic, causing nicotine poisoning.

Nicotine poisoning results from taking too much nicotine and may cause symptoms like headache, vomiting, palpitations, difficulty breathing, and seizures.

The dangers of nicotine pouches

Nicotine patches haven't been well researched yet, but some evidence suggests they can help curb cigarette addiction. According to a 2021 study, users can draw adequate nicotine from the pouches to overcome cravings for cigarettes.

As cigarette smoking has significantly dropped in the United States over the last decade, sales of oral nicotine products like pouches and lozenges more than doubled between 2020 and 2022.

A box of snus pads replaces smokeless cigarettes. Swedish popular trend.
Image by Natalia Bohren via Shutterstock

The manufacturers are especially targeting youth, often using unethical market approaches, like presenting nicotine products as cool and aspirational in a glossy youth-focused advertising campaign.

Although more research into nicotine pouches is needed, the known side effects may include the following:

  • Irritation of the gums
  • Sore mouth
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Nicotine addiction
  • Cardiovascular issues

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight requires long-term lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and managing stress levels. Even if nicotine pouches may help suppress appetite, their regular use can cause new health issues.


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