Nowadays, people trying to lose weight are bombarded with several types of weight loss products — pills, drinks, supplements, and meal replacements.
Some of these products make grand claims that in many cases are not backed up by science — absorb the fat in the food so that your body doesn’t, or clean your body of toxins, or reduce your appetite are some of the claims made. However, they may have dangerous effects on your health.
For starters, weight loss supplements and medications are different.
Weight loss medication is prescribed by doctors in very specific cases to patients who need to lose weight for medical reasons. They are also used together with a comprehensive weight loss and workout plan. These meds are regulated and often only sold under prescription.
Weight Loss Drug Classification
FDA-approved weight loss pills can be classified as:
- Anorexiants, or appetite suppressants. They act in the part of the brain that controls how full you feel after eating. Some common of the side effects of anorexiants include higher blood pressure, headaches, blurred vision, and insomnia. Moreover, since some of these medications are amphetamine-related, they may cause dependence.
- Lipase inhibitors. Instead of working on your brain to control appetite, these drugs help prevent the absorption of fat. Common side effects include gas, soft stools, fecal urgency or incontinence, and oily spotting. More serious side effects such as liver damage may also occur.
The Mayo Clinic reports these drugs may help obese patients who have tried to lose weight by diet and exercise alone, without much success.
Weight Loss Supplements
Contrarily, supplements are not regulated. According to a 2005 publication by the University of Colorado Hospital, the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act allows companies to market and sell their diet pills without government regulations.
In other words, you cannot know if the product does what it says it does or what ingredients it has. For example, the University of Colorado Hospital publication cites studies that show up to 30% of weight loss supplement bottles are labeled incorrectly.
This lack of transparency in weight loss supplements makes it hard for you to assess what it may do to your body and what results you may get. This, in turn, increases the danger to your health.
For example, some supplements may contain banned ingredients such as fenfluramine or sibutramine. Both drugs were banned in the United States for their dangerous side effects, which include serious heart valve damage, heart attack, and strokes.
The other issue you may encounter with weight loss drugs is unrealistic promises. Marketing for some of these drugs tries to sell their products as miracle weight loss pills. For instance, they may claim to make you lose several pounds per week eating whatever you want and without physical activity.
However, these claims only put you and your health in danger. Even if you’re considering taking weight loss drugs, choose a safe diet plan based on a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
If you’re considering a diet that requires you to take a supplement, talk to your doctor first, and ask yourself:
- Is this product regulated?
- Are the labels clear? What ingredients does it have and how may they affect you?
- What are the side effects of this drug? Are there any potential interactions with any drugs you’re already taking?
- Are the pills the main focus of the diet? Or does it promote healthy habits and safe, long-term weight loss?
Regulated weight loss medication may help obese patients who are not losing weight as fast as expected. However, using these drugs should always be monitored by a doctor due to the side effects and complications they may have.
Unregulated supplements may be even more dangerous, and it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before taking any of these drugs.