The Potential Dangers of Weight Loss Pills Exposed
For many of us, fighting obesity is a war. You may win a few battles, but the smallest mistake and you’ll quickly find that weight gains (pun intended) the upper hand. Unlike alcohol, gambling, or challenges and addictions, food is a necessity to survive, which means there is no quitting “cold turkey” (also pun intended). Beating obesity means maintaining an almost impossible amount of will, along with lifestyle changes that are not plausible for many.
That is why it is perfectly understandable that millions of people across the United States would turn to shortcuts, such as weight loss supplements. In war, you do whatever it takes to gain the upper hand. The idea that a simple pill could help you shed extra pounds is not only intriguing – for many it feels like their only chance.
Let’s Explore The “Magic” of Diet Pills
There are countless weight loss supplements and diet pills available. Some of them are “natural” or herbal. Others are more medical in formulation. There are diet pills sold and distributed by doctors, and those that can be ordered online or from “As Seen on TV stores.”
There are so many diet pills available that they often get convoluted together into appearing as though they are all equal. Not only are they not all equal, but most of them do nothing at all, and those that do work are frequently found to be dangerous.
Indeed, the vast majority of diet pills have not been found to have any effect on weight loss. While not all claims about weight loss pills have been studied, those that have almost always deliver no, or inconsequential results. This is especially true of herbal diet pills, including:
- Green Coffee Extract
- Raspberry Ketones
- Cumin Extract, and More
So far, none of these herbal supplements in long term, controlled, well designed studies has shown any effect on weight loss. Most studies that have shown an effect were very small (almost no participants) and were funded and sponsored by the companies hoping to sell the supplement (creating a huge conflict of interest).
Essentially… Diet Pills are Highly Unregulated, Mostly Placebo
In addition, not only are these herbal diet pills unlikely to work, but they are also woefully unregulated. Take Hydroxycut, for example. This highly popular combination of herbal supplements contained, before 2004, a variation of ephedra – a highly dangerous supplement. Between 2004 and 2009, the herbal supplement contained several ingredients that were found to cause significant harm to the liver, such as hydroxycitric acid.
The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, even though just because something is “natural” does not mean it cannot also be harmful. And while the current formulation does not appear to have any physical consequences, it also doesn’t appear to work, as there are no studies that have confirmed that weight loss occurs.
In addition, many other supplement makers have been found to secretly place ingredients that could be deadly. Some unregulated natural weight loss diet pills contained ingredients like antidepressants, stimulants, diuretics, and other ingredients that were not listed on the label – the very medications people hoped to avoid.
“Natural” weight loss pills suffer from the same issues that other natural supplements suffer from:
- Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe.
- Natural supplement makers are unregulated, which means that they may not be creating the formulations safely.
- Studies rarely show that natural supplements have any effect on the body.
There is a temptation to try these diet pills and other supplements because they do not have the side effects of pharmaceutical medications, but what supplement makers don’t tell you is that the reason that most pharmaceutical medicines have side effects is because they work. The side effects are what happens when the formula is doing its job.
So why do some people lose weight while on these natural weight loss supplements? The exact reason is not known, but the most likely reasons include:
- Those taking a natural supplement are also combining it with exercise, better diet, etc.
- Those that do not see weight loss stop taking them quicker than those that do.
- Those taking the supplement are more likely to attribute natural fluctuations in weight to the pill.
Whatever the cause, herbal supplements are unlikely to have any effect on diet, and could even be dangerous.
But those are just the herbal and natural weight loss supplements. What about the pharmaceutical ones that are specifically given by doctors in medical weight loss clinics?
So… What are The Effects of Weight Loss Medication on the Body?
Doctors do occasionally prescribe weight loss medications in medical weight loss settings. There are currently many different medications available, including:
These drugs, unlike natural diet pills, are generally found to be effective at helping the body lose weight. Some, like Qsymia, have been shown to help individuals lose about 10% of their excess body weight when combined with diet and exercise compared to placebo.
But before you decide to ask your doctor about these medications, there are several issues that need to be discussed related to these medications.
Take Qsymia for example. One of the main ingredients in Qsymia is Phentermine. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it is directly related to another well known drug, amphetamine – a medication used to treat ADHD, and sometimes sold as a street drug called “Speed.”
Belviq is another famous weight loss supplement, which uses the drug lorcaserin. Lorcaserin is classified as a Schedule IV Drug because it has hallucinogenic properties, and it was briefly linked to heart disease – although studies are looking into whether or not that risk is high.
Xenical is made from a drug called Orlistat. Orlistat is known to can significant gastrointestinal challenges, including fecal incontinence (going in your pants), and risk for kidney injury. No significant dangers have been reported, but the total amount of weight loss with Orlistat is only about 5 to 6 extra pounds over placebo. It is helpful, but it is not a massive difference in weight loss.
On Top of That, Here are Additional Side Effects of Weight Loss Medications
There is a place for weight loss medicine. Under a trained doctor’s supervision, when coordinated with diet and weight loss efforts, frequent follow ups, and with the right nutritional supplements and instructions, weight loss medications do have a place in helping those that have struggled with lose weight continue to fight pounds and try to achieve their goal weight.
But simply assuming that the medications are enough to help you lose weight can be dangerous. With uncommon risks and side effects that include:
- Suicidal Ideation
- Liver Failure
- Heart Disease and More
When determining whether or not a medication is worth taking, doctors look at the risks with the benefits. For some, they may find that the extra few pounds that these medications help with can be an asset, and under strict regulation they may prescribe these medications to specific patients.
But for most, an extra 5 pounds may not be enough to justify the risks and potential dangers, and so most doctors use medical weight loss pills as a last resort.
What it all Boils Down to, There are Very Few Shortcuts to Your Weight Loss Solutions
Overall, it is important to note that while diet pills do have their place, the natural ones have greater risk for no benefits, and the pharmaceutical ones have muted benefits that are only right for specific patients. If you want to lose weight effectively, there are likely to be other alternatives that you will want to consider, as weight loss pills are unlikely to be the right solution.