- Prescription diet pills can help obese people lose 5-10% of their body weight.
- There is little evidence that over-the-counter diet pills work.
- In fact, you should avoid over-the-counter diet pills because some contain harmful ingredients.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.
Almost everyone who has tried it knows that it is difficult to lose weight. When calorie restriction and cardio workouts leave you feeling tired and hungry, anything that could speed up progress seems worth trying, especially something as simple as a pill.
Americans invested $ 2 billion
supplements in 2015, despite the industry’s complicated history. When it comes to diet pills, there are two types: prescription drugs and over-the-counter supplements. And they are not created or regulated equally.
Here’s what you need to know about each, and if they can help you lose weight.
Prescription Weight Loss Medication
The Food and Drug Administration has approved five prescription drugs for long-term weight loss based on research into their safety and effectiveness:
- Liraglutide, sold under the brand Saxenda. A 2017 review published in Obesity Science & Practice found that in five trials, obese participants lost weight while taking liraglutide compared to participants taking placebo. On average, participants taking liraglutide lost 5-10% of their body weight, although some dropped out of the trials due to unwanted side effects, including nausea and vomiting.
- Lorcaserin, sold under the brand Belviq. Studies have shown that people who take one 10 milligram tablet twice a day for 12 weeks can lose at least 5% of their body weight; if they don’t, they should stop taking the pills. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, urinary tract infections, back pain, and headache. Studies have suggested that people may lose less weight with lorcaserin than with liraglutide.
- Naltrexone-bupropion, sold under the brand Contrary. Naltrexone and bupropion are separate drugs, but researchers recently found that a pill that combines the two can help you lose more weight than either pill on its own. It should be noted, however, that many studies on the effects of this pill on weight loss have been sponsored by the company that makes this combination pill.
- Orlistat, sold under the brands Xenical and Alli. Researchers found that people with a BMI of 27 kg / m or more who take orlistat for more than two months could lose 12.3 pounds on average. Interestingly, a 2012 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that overweight soldiers who took orlistat for six months lost more body fat but not as much lean mass as the placebo group. .
- Phentermine-topiramate, sold under the brand Qsymia. This treatment appears to help people lose the most weight of the five drugs. In a 2011 study published in The Lancet, nearly half of participants who took a pill containing 15 milligrams of phentermine and 92 milligrams of topiramate per day lost more than 10% of their total body weight after 56 weeks. Common side effects included constipation, insomnia, and dysgeusia, a distorted sense of taste.
A few other drugs, most commonly phentermine, are approved for short-term use. But prescription weight loss drugs are not for everyone. Doctors often reserve these treatments for people with a BMI over 30 kg / m or those with health complications related to obesity, such as
These pills are not a perfect solution for obesity. Medication for weight loss is used along with a healthy diet and an exercise program which should be continued after treatment. In addition, side effects are common and can be serious.
Over-the-Counter Weight Loss Supplements
There are many other diet pills that are neither approved nor regulated by the FDA. “Federal law does not require that dietary supplements be proven safe to the satisfaction of the FDA before they are marketed,” the FDA website states.
Since over-the-counter diet pills don’t need to be checked for safety or effectiveness, it’s much easier to put them on the shelves and in your medicine cabinet. In fact, many weight loss supplement manufacturers do not test their products on humans before they put them on the market.
So, if you are considering a diet pill supplement, there are a few things you might want to know first.
These types of diet pills often contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and herbs. The most common ingredients can be found in a National Institutes of Health database. It will tell you everything researchers know about an ingredient so far. Is it safe? Does it work? This is where you will find out.
For example, there is Garcinia cambogia, which comes in products like Hydroxycut and Plexus Slim. It is believed to suppress appetite and decrease the number of fat cells produced by your body. Although it is considered “fairly safe,” there is no evidence that it actually helps with weight loss, and overuse has been linked to liver problems.
Other diet pills may contain chitosan, which comes from the shells of crabs, lobsters and shrimp. In theory, it’s supposed to bind the fats in your digestive tract so that your body can’t absorb them. In fact, according to the NIH, the amount of fat it fixes is probably not enough to help you lose a significant amount of weight.
The most common ingredients are stimulants like caffeine, yerba mate, bitter orange, or guarana. When it comes to the data on these ingredients, there isn’t much to suggest that they help in any way with weight loss, said Katherine Zeratsky, a dietitian at the Mayo Clinic.
For example, a 2019 study found that rats given caffeine burned more calories than rats doing the same amount of exercise without a stimulant. But there is no evidence that the effect is transmitted to humans.
Theoretically, all of these ingredients should help with weight loss, but it’s extremely difficult to know if they are working, Zeratsky said. This is because most diet pills are made up of multiple ingredients and the instructions suggest that you take them while on a calorie restrictive diet. So it’s hard to tell if you lost weight because of the product or just because you just ate fewer calories.
Whatever ingredient or diet pill schedule you are considering, it’s essential that you talk to your pharmacist first, Zeratsky said, especially if you’re taking other medications.
Although many ingredients are considered safe, they can have toxic effects in high doses. And they may interfere with your other medicines. Your pharmacist can guide you through an encrypted list of ingredients and report any alarm signals.