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How Weight Loss Pills Fail Dieters

Updated on April 3, 2012

Weight loss pills seem like the easy answer when it comes to losing weight quickly and easily. There are plenty out there to choose from which include those that suppress your appetite to those that claim to block fat from absorption. But, do they work? Just as importantly, are they good for our health? The problem with weight loss pills is that the standards for FDA approval are really low. All the manufacturer must prove is that there are no impurities, they were produced in a quality manner (whatever that means) and they are labeled. The effectiveness you see on the manufacturer's site is normally based on testing done by the manufacturer itself, so the question still remains, are they effective?

Orlistat: The Most Popular Weight Loss Drug

The Mayo Clinic lays out over-the-counter weight loss pills pretty well. There are several popular supplements. Overall, most of them are ineffective or there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not they work. There are a couple that work. First, Alli is a popular fat blocker. It's the watered down version of the popular prescription weight loss drug called Xenical. Alli and Xenical contain orlistat. Orlistat is a chemical that suppresses the enzymes that break down triglycerides in the intestines and excretes them as undigested rather than absorbing them. Alli has been shown effective in studies, but only contributes to a four to six pound weight loss, overall. The prescription brand of orlistat, Xenical, was attributed to a seven to eight pounds lost.

Now, the bad stuff. There are, as you can imagine, gastrointestinal side effects to this drug including loose stools, stool leakage, abdominal cramping, etc. People who took the prescription drug, Xenical, long-term suffered less side effects after about the fourth year. The FDA is also investigating orlistat for its relation to liver damage and possible liver failure, and Xenical put a warning label on their bottle about this in 2010. Orlistat also blocks the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) as well.

In 2007, Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) criticized the drug-makers of Alli for selling it over-the-counter. As with many prescription weight loss supplements, Xenical was thought to be useful for obese individuals, or those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. It was even shown to prevent diabetes in obese people by up to 40%. However, PAL's point is that now everyone, including teenagers, people with eating disorders or those who just need to lose a couple of pounds are using Alli, possibly to the point of abuse, and really to only lose a couple of extra pounds, if that.

Appetite Suppressants

Another popular weight loss pill was known as Ephedra or Ma Huang. It was found to be effective at tricking the body in to believing it was full. Appetite suppressants are some of the most popular supplements out there. It is difficult, after all, to reduce calories and stick to a diet long-term. The FDA eventually banned the sale of this weight loss pill.

Of course, one weight loss pill is banned and another sprouts in its place. Bitter orange and country mallow (heartleaf) have also been deemed unsafe by the FDA. Remember, just because it's marketed as natural or herbal does not mean that it is safe. Most times the safety issues are only realized once thousands of people have been taking it and find there's a collective problem.

Safe Supplements and Alternatives

Safe diet pill sounds like a huge oxymoron to me. As much as I've been tempted, I've never taken a weight loss supplement. Coffee is my vice, and caffeine has been shown to minimally increase the metabolism, though that is not why I drink it. I do have heart palpitations related to anxiety, and while the caffeine is probably not great for that issue, I'm thinking weight loss pills would be even worse. If you have heart issues, definitely don't take weight loss pills. Some have been linked to heart related problems and even stroke. Green tea has also been shown to increase the metabolism slightly and it is safe. It has been successful at reducing the triglyceride level in the bloodstream as well.

Other supplements that have been shown as possibly or likely safe include Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), Chromium and Guar Gum. There is little evidence to show that Guar Gum is effective. It claims to be a fat blocker and increase feelings of fullness. Chromium is another that has insufficient evidence to prove whether it works or not, but claims to burn calories faster and build muscle. CLA has been featured on Dr. Oz and other talk shows. It is possibly effective and likely safe. One study showed it increased lean body mass as much as 9 percent.

Why Weight Loss Pills Fail:
*Weight loss results are minimal with pills alone
*They are potentially unsafe and harmful to the body
*They don't teach us how and what to eat
*The body builds up tolerance to weight loss pills resulting in having to increase dosage or gaining back the weight
*The potential for weight re-gain is tremendous
*Tracking food and calories is a safer alternative to supplements
*Exercise will build lean muscle better than any pill

Try getting these appetite suppressants in your diet. For instance, capsaicin, naturally suppresses appetite and increases the metabolism; you can find it in chili peppers. Chia seeds expand the stomach naturally increasing the feeling of fullness. A piece of whole-wheat toast before a meal has the same effect. Supplements don't have to be a part of weight loss. Try changing eating habits and daily exercise routines before trying a pill. There is no magic pill, and there never will be.



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    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 6 years ago

      I agree with that, too, Christin. I will be publishing a hub today about vitamins and supplements that help with weight loss...along with diet and exercise.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 6 years ago from Midwest

      I agree that most diet pills marketed as such are bogus and they feed people's need or desire for a "quick fix". What most people don't want to face is that they didn't get overweight overnight and they aren't going to get fit and healthy that way either. It has to be a lifestyle change and dedication to being healthier overall and that includes EXERCISE as much if not more than diet alone.

      There are supplements that are beneficial however, not because they are a magic pill but because they support your body. I do use supplements but not because I expect them to do the work for me and I would never use something like "alli" because of the dangerous and undesirable side effects.

    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 6 years ago

      Jessica, you're certainly welcome to your opinion, and I'm glad you've had success. I assume you were also on a diet and exercise plan as no pill, that I know of, works by itself. I would think that your change in weight had more to do with that than Alli.

    • profile image

      Jessica 6 years ago

      I think supplements are a pretty good option. I got on the Alli weight loss pills about 6 months ago. In 4 months I was able to lose about 45 pounds and I have never felt better. Or Looked better for that matter :) Doctor says blood pressure and heart are good so I know I'm not just feeling healthy I am healthy. I have a few friends that have tried this as well and it worked great for them. Before I get any new weight loss products I check out, they have reviews on a few products and the helped me decide which one would be most effective.

    • CrystalC profile image

      CrystalC 6 years ago from VA

      Great Hub! Losing weight through diet and exercise is always the best way to go. Looking "skinny" is not as important as being healthy. Even if those pills work and an individual loses weight quickly, maintaining that weight without proper nutrition and exercise is impossible!

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 6 years ago from India

      Awesome information, this is really very useful for those who rely purely on weight loss pills instead of burning calories through exercise. Good hub.

      Recently a friend of mine was telling me about weight loss pills and i've advised him, not to go for it. Now i will guide him to refer this article too.

    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 6 years ago

      Yes, I love the natural ways to suppress appetite. Chia seeds and capsaicin are only two ways. I often use the whole grain toast before dinner. Or, even soup before dinner is a great way to keep from overeating. Jenny - I agree completely! It's hard to live a healthy lifestyle, but it's extremely detrimental to health to go up and down in weight which is the problem with the pills.

    • jennyatbootyw8 profile image

      jennyatbootyw8 6 years ago from Luton, UK

      great hub!

      purveyors of these pills rely on overweight people to be desperate to lose weight. Claims of quick weight loss prove to be too attractive to ignore. This results in the rollercoaster of anxiety that accompanies yo-yo dieting and failed attempts at quick-fixes.

    • cavallo profile image

      cavallo 6 years ago from Newmarket,UK

      There are natural ways to reduce appetite.Also ways to avoid an appetite !!

    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 6 years ago

      I agree! You can be "skinny" and still be "fat" on the inside. No exercise = a higher body fat percentage. And to be honest, I like to eat, so I have to exercise to burn it off!

    • rob_allen profile image

      rob_allen 6 years ago from MNL, PH

      *Exercise will build lean muscle better than any pill -- I agree! It's better to exercise that to lose the excess weight through short cuts. No pain, no gain! :)


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