Step aside, Ozempic — Zyn is being touted as the new (delusional) weight-loss quick fix

Step aside, Ozempic — Zyn is being touted as the new (delusional) weight-loss quick fix
  • Zyn pouches are surging in popularity for their stimulant effects.

  • Some users are also buzzing about the appetite-suppressing effects of the nicotine in Zyn.

  • Medical experts say we understand very little about how safe nicotine is for weight loss.

Zyn has captured the hearts, minds, and mouths of Americans.

The wildly popular nicotine pouches, which sit in your gumline like hard candy, ostensibly give users a "high" and a boost of energy. Truck drivers use them for endurance, gym bros pop them before a workout, and Tucker Carlson has said the nicotine in them "frees your mind." Carlson, who's said he uses Zyn every second he's awake, has also claimed (incorrectly) that Zyn improves sexual performance.

Now, Zyn users are buzzing about another purported side effect: Some say that their habit has triggered weight loss.

Andrea Hernández, the author of the consumer-trend newsletter Snaxshot, pointed out this craze this week, sharing a collection of social-media posts about Zyn and weight loss.

"Your boy's down like 30 pounds in a month. O-Zyn-pic. It works," an Instagram user who runs a popular golfing page said in one of the videos.

Diet pages on Reddit are filling up with Zyn chatter, too. "I've used Zyn nicotine pouches occasionally over the past few years but have started to use them regularly because they help me focus and curb my hunger," a Reddit user wrote in r/intermittentfasting.

If history has taught us anything, it's that nicotine products do suppress appetite somewhat, and they will be used for weight loss. Plus, there's high demand for a quick and inexpensive hack to replace new blockbuster drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, which are in shortage, causing widespread anxiety.

Dr. Carolyn Bramante, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, said that while it made sense people were trying this out, she had concerns about the unknown potential effects of nicotine pouches on a person's heart and blood vessels.

Nicotine may trigger inflammation of the molecules that fat cells release, but Bramante, who works in adult and pediatric weight management clinics, told Business Insider none of this was well-studied.

"There are so many FDA-approved treatments for obesity now. It's important to think about safety," she said.

The history of nicotine marketed for weight loss

An old ad for lucky strikes saying, "Light a lucky and you'll never mess sweets that make you fat."
An actual 1920s ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes.Bettmann/Getty Images

In the 1920s, Lucky Strike cigarettes were marketed as a healthier, less "fattening" alternative to candy, helping smokers "keep a slender figure." It's an idea that persisted in cigarette ads for the next 50 years, despite regulations introduced in the '60s to block tobacco companies from advertising cigarettes as slimming.

When electronic cigarettes and vapes came on the scene, it was no different. A 2014 ad in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue showed a woman on the beach wearing a tiny triangle bottom, promoting Blu e-cigarettes as "Slim. Charged. Ready to go."

Zyn is different. It is not marketed as slimming or feminine. Its branding is simple and masculine. And it's gamified: When you buy a can of 15 pouches for $4.90 — in flavors such as citrus, smooth, and chill — you can generate points. For 5630 points, you can get a pair of Apple AirPods; for 9000 points, you can get a Samsung TV; and for 8650 points, you can get a pizza oven. You get 15 points a can.

In fact, the idea of using Zyn for weight loss isn't a marketing ploy by Philip Morris International, which owns Zyn. It's Zyn users who are driving the narrative of these pouches as a diet hack — like a cheat code you can unlock if you buy in. Forget a Sonos sound system, what about losing that belly weight you can't seem to shift?

"It's like… 'This is something that I can literally buy in a gas station, that I'm still getting points on, that has this byproduct effect that it wasn't intended for, but I've found it,'" Hernández, who's been watching this trend bubble up for years, told BI.

Many male celebrities (such as Elon Musk and Charles Barkley) have reported dramatic weight loss after taking GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro. But those drugs cost more than $1,000 for one month's supply and are incredibly hard to access.

"That's why I said it's the Ozempic for the masses," Hernández said jokingly. "People want to lose weight, but it's something people can't afford and don't want to talk about. This feels like a discreet way to lose weight."

Zyn may suppress appetite short-term, but the collateral damage is huge

zyn flip can with pouches inside
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Scientists suspect the reason nicotine works as a mild appetite suppressant is because it activates neurons in the brain that control hunger.

And because Zyn users absorb more nicotine than cigarette smokers, the appetite-suppressing effect of popping a Zyn pouch in your gumline may be even greater than lighting up.

Dr. Beverly Tchang, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell's comprehensive weight-control center in New York, noted there had even been some recent studies (in mice) combining Ozempic and nicotine together to produce a greater weight-loss effect. But she emphasized that that didn't mean people should use nicotine as a weight-loss aid. We have no idea how toxic it may be for people or what a proper dose would look like.

Ozempic boosts the action of a hormone we produce naturally in our gut. That's how it helps people feel full quickly and manage blood sugar. "It's almost like hormone replacement for people who have low levels of GLP-1," Bramante said.

a GLP1 injection pen
Iuliia Burmistrova/Getty Images

Nicotine isn't like a hormone. It's an addictive stimulant and one that (unlike Ozempic) hasn't been studied in randomized, controlled trials to evaluate safety and efficacy.

While nicotine pouches circumvent the health effects of cigarettes that are caused by tobacco, they still do a number on your body. They're highly addictive and bump up your blood pressure. This gives Bramante pause. She worries that "we don't fully understand how nicotine works to regulate appetite in people, specifically with obesity."

Inflammation, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular issues are all at play when people carry around excess weight, and popping a Zyn could tip the scales even further.

Bramante is especially concerned about people with obesity trying nicotine out for weight loss because it could increase the number of inflammatory molecules that fat cells release (leptin).

"I would advise them to seek care for obesity treatment from their primary-care clinician and/or an obesity-medicine specialist, with the mindset that it's a long-term relationship with follow-up and with multiple treatment options that we can now adjust to meet an individual's needs," she said.

A spokesperson for Philip Morris International told BI in a statement that "ZYN is designed as a better alternative for adults aged 21 or older who are currently using nicotine products and wish to continue using nicotine. The best thing any nicotine user can do for their health is to quit."

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