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Nicotine pouches are gaining popularity on social media as a cheap alternative to weight loss drugs, but medical experts warn the trend can pose significant health risks. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
  • Nicotine pouches are being used as an alternative to weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic.
  • Nicotine is a known appetite suppressant but has many health risks.
  • Risks of oral nicotine products include gastro discomfort, tooth decay, and certain types of cancer.
  • Experts say you can naturally suppress your appetite with lifestyle tweaks .

Instagram and TikTok users are promoting the use of Zyn brand nicotine pouches as an appetite suppressant in a trend that has been called “O-Zyn-pic” — a low cost alternative to GLP-1 medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.

Content creators are claiming the $5 doses of flavored nicotine have helped them lose up to 30lbs.

However, while nicotine may help reduce appetite, health experts are raising concerns about this disturbing trend and the health dangers associated with nicotine.

Zyn pouches are placed between your lip and gums, and the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream.

“Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, which can lead to psychological and physiological dependence, as well as withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use,” points out Amy Reichelt, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer at PurMinds Neuropharma.

With GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic being very expensive and prescription medications that are only suitable for a subset of individuals, Reichelt isn’t surprised people are turning to nicotine products that are readily available to the general public to aid with weight loss.

As an appetite suppressant, it can be very effective.

“Nicotine can affect appetite in a range of ways, including altering activity in reward processing brain circuits through stimulating the release of neurotransmitters, and also through influencing the activity of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin,” Reichelt explains.

Still, she believes the health risks aren’t worth it.

In the short term, she says nicotine pouches can cause a number of side effects, especially at higher doses, such as:

  • nausea
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • throat irritation
  • gastrointestinal discomfort

In the long term, the risks can be more serious.

“Nicotine can have acute cardiovascular effects, including increasing heart rate and blood pressure, which may pose risks for individuals with underlying cardiovascular conditions,” she explains.

Nicotine use is also associated with an increased risk of stroke and various types of cancer.

A study of 44 nicotine pouch products and two nicotine-free pouches published in 2022 found that 26 of the samples contained cancer-causing chemicals known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines.

“Oral nicotine products mainly contain nicotine, flavorings, pH buffer, filling agents, as well as a trace of toxic tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), metal, and formaldehyde,” Reichelt surmises. “As nicotine pouches are held in the mouth against the gum, there is research investigating whether these pouches cause periodontal disease and damage to the gums that can lead to tooth loss or decay.”

A 2023 study found that when applied to the same area of the mouth repeatedly, Nicotine can lead to periodontitis, the main cause of tooth loss.

Still, Dr. Danielle Kelvas, MD, primary care physician at The HCG Institute, says, if you’re on a mission to lose weight, appetite suppression can be a useful tool.

“It helps reduce overall calorie intake by making it easier for you to eat less without feeling deprived or constantly hungry. This can be particularly beneficial in the initial stages of a weight-loss plan when adjusting to a lower calorie intake can be challenging,” she points out.

But she stresses that it’s better to suppress your appetite without resorting to drugs.

Kelvas recommends drinking plenty of water. “Staying well-hydrated can help reduce hunger, as sometimes thirst is confused with hunger,” she explains.

It’s a good idea to increase your fiber intake too.

“High-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can keep you feeling fuller for longer periods,” Kelvas explains.

“Protein-rich foods can have a similar effect, helping to enhance satiety and reduce overall food intake,” she adds.

How you eat matters, too. Kelvas recommends mindful eating to reduce your appetite.

“Paying close attention to what and how much you’re eating can help you recognize fullness cues better and prevent overeating,” she explains.

It might surprise you to learn that regular exercise is also a great way to regulate your appetite.

“Physical activity can help regulate appetite hormones and reduce the feeling of hunger,” Kelvas notes.

If you’re wondering what specific foods you should eat, Kelvas has plenty she recommends.

“Oats are packed with soluble fiber, which slows digestion and keeps you feeling fuller longer, while apples are high in fiber and water, keeping you full and hydrated,” she says.

You can also eat protein-rich eggs and foods that are high in healthy fats, like avocados and nuts.

Remember to include water-rich vegetables, too.

“Cucumbers, zucchinis, and bell peppers have a high water and fiber content, which can help to fill you up,” Kelvas explains.

Controlling your appetite can lead to weight loss, but it’s important to remember that we eat for lots of reasons, not just because we’re hungry.

Some reasons include stress, boredom, emotional comfort, and social gatherings.

Therefore, Kelvas says, while controlling hunger through appetite suppression can help, it’s also crucial for you to address and manage these other factors.

She surmises that “Developing a healthy relationship with food, recognizing emotional eating triggers, and finding non-food methods to cope with emotions or stress are equally important for long-term weight management.”

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that nicotine pouches aren’t a healthy way to suppress your appetite and lose weight.

Eating plenty of protein, fiber, and water-rich foods, as well as exercising regularly, are all healthy, natural ways to help regulate your appetite.