Chocoholic Fix

Can a skin patch curb your appetite for sweets?

By Carin Gorrell, published November 1, 2000 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Can't curb those chocolate cravings? Now there's a new skin patch that may help you kick the habit—and shed a few extra pounds.

Called Crave Control patches, they were invented by Liz Paul, a former restaurateur who noticed that her slim chefs rarely ate their own dishes. Paul knew that taste and smell are closely linked senses, and wondered whether the vanilla smell wafting from some recipes stifled their appetites. So she developed a vanilla-scented patch and, placing it on her hand, sniffed it every time she had the urge to snack. Within weeks she lost nearly five pounds.

Paul's patch was tested at London's St. George's Hospital, where chief dietitian Catherine Collins asked 200 volunteers to sniff a patch that smelled like vanilla, lemon or nothing at all each time they had a snack attack. Four weeks later, subjects with the scentless patch had lost an average of only 2.4 pounds, while those sniffing vanilla lost an average of four pounds. Collins believes the vanilla scented patch works by influencing brain chemistry, just as certain chemicals in chocolate trigger the mood-lifting chemical serotonin.

Thrilled with the results, which were presented at the 13th International Congress of Dietetics in Scotland, Paul is undeterred by the patch's one potential downside: Some participants experienced nausea. "The nausea is a small price to pay if the patch helps me diet," she told one reporter.