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Think before you get all wrapped up

  • Story Highlights
  • Salons claim body wraps, which are gaining popularity, help you lose inches
  • Many kinds of materials are available for the treatment, which costs $50 to $100
  • It could cause dehydration or allergic reactions, Dr. Erica Brownfield says
  • There is no scientific data to support the claims of body wraps, she says
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By Linda Saether
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- In our constant battle of the bulge, a new weapon is gaining in popularity.

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Mineral body wraps are supposed to help you lose weight, but doctors are skeptical.

The basic concept is simple: loss by bondage, or body wraps.

Around for decades, body wraps were first made popular by Hollywood stars but have since become available to lesser-known mortals.

These wraps come in a host of styles; from minerals to mud, from moving to motionless.

Their aim: better bodies.

Their claim: less of you when you're done.

"We do mineral body wraps that take off inches and we guarantee people will lose 6 to 20 inches on the first wrap or the next one is free," says Julie Tracey, co-owner of Atlanta's Suddenly Slimmer salon.

But Dr. Erica Brownfield, associate professor of medicine at Emory, is skeptical, at best.

"These results are going to be temporary and there is no scientific data to support what they're claiming is actually going on," she said.

In the land of wraps, measurements are key. You wear very little clothing for the body wrap -- a small top matched with a small bottom.

These are preferably made from breathable fabric without buttons or zippers, which could get in the way and cause chafing or pinching.

The next step is all about the numbers. The wrapper puts measuring tape around various parts of your body and draws marks in black -- sort of "slash marks the spot."

Typically, between a dozen and 20 spots are measured. And it's the sum total of these spots that will tell you how many inches you've lost when the treatment is over.

Most providers will guarantee some inches lost from your first wrap but say you need a series of visits if you want to reduce by as much as, say, a clothing size, Tracey says. Video Health for Her: What's it like to get a wrap? »

And priced at $50 to $100, a treatment like this is not a cheap quick fix.

But how do they work?

The treatment "draws out metabolic waste and impurities from the body that lets water flow through better," Tracey says. "Retained water dilutes the metabolic waste and those go between the fat cells and spread things apart."

"With the compression of the bandages, because you are wrapped up real tight, we push those fat cells back together and that is what changes the shape."

Aside from inches gone, body wraps claim to help with issues such as cellulite, skin tone and body shaping. Tracey, whose company has done almost 8,000 wraps, says the treatments also help with stretch marks, wrinkles and lines.

But Brownfield and others in the medical field aren't quite buying it.

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"Their claims say they are squeezing the fat cells closer together," Brownfield says," but I think it's very important for people to realize that they're not losing fat cells."

"Those fat cells, once you decompress them and take those wraps off, they're going to go back to their usual shape and size."

Brownfield is also concerned that, in some cases, these wraps could be a health hazard.

"Actually, depending on which wrap you use they can be harmful, they can dehydrate the body," she says, which can be dangerous for some people.

She also cautions people to make sure they know what type of minerals and solutions are being used in the procedure.

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Allergic reactions are one concern, but also any type of open wound, contagious disease or rash might make a body wrap a bad idea.

And finally, if you have any medical concerns, talk to a doctor before deciding if wrapping up is your best bet for shaping up.

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