Let’s face it: We’re a society that looks for quick fixes. And so the idea of losing weight by taking pills certainly has its appeal. And each year, dieters spend more than $13 billion on weight loss supplements.
It begs the question: Do over-the-counter diet pills work?
Not to long ago, a German study was released that examined the effectiveness of popular weight-loss supplements. In the study, 189 obese patients were given either one of nine popular diet pills or a placebo. At the end of two months, there was no difference in weight loss between the supplements and the placebo. Thomas Ellrott, M.D., who authored the research, pointed out the problem:
We have so-called fat magnets, mobilizers and dissolvers, as well as appetite tamers, metabolism boosters, carb blockers and so on. The market for these is huge, but unlike for regulated drugs, effectiveness does not have to be proven for these to be sold.
Once a product is on the market, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can – and sometimes does – investigate for possible safety concerns or recalls. Courtesy of the FDA, below is a list of some weight-loss supplements and the FDA’s findings.
|Alli — OTC version of prescription drug orlistat (Xenical)||Decreases absorption of dietary fat||Effective; weight-loss amounts typically less for OTC versus prescription||FDA investigating reports of liver injury|
|Bitter orange||Increases calories burned||Insufficient reliable evidence to rate||Possibly unsafe|
|Chitosan||Blocks absorption of dietary fat||Insufficient reliable evidence to rate||Possibly safe|
|Chromium||Increases calories burned, decreases appetite and builds muscle||Insufficient reliable evidence to rate||Likely safe|
|Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)||Reduces body fat and builds muscle||Possibly effective||Possibly safe|
|Country mallow (heartleaf)||Decreases appetite and increases calories burned||Insufficient reliable evidence to rate||Likely unsafe and banned by FDA|
|Ephedra||Decreases appetite||Possibly effective||Likely unsafe and banned by FDA|
|Green tea extract||Increases calorie and fat metabolism and decreases appetite||Insufficient reliable evidence to rate||Possibly safe|
|Guar gum||Blocks absorption of dietary fat and increases feeling of fullness||Possibly ineffective||Likely safe|
|Hoodia||Decreases appetite||Insufficient reliable evidence to rate||Insufficient information|
Despite all the above, if you are hell-bent on taking a weight loss supplement, it’s important to involve your doctor in the decision. Some supplements may interact with other medications or impact an existing medical condition. Talk to your doctor first. And always keep in mind, weight loss supplements should be used as directed and never abused – as they can lead to addiction. If you or a loved one need help with any kind of addiction, programs such as Narconon Rehab are available.
At the end of the day, there really is no quick fix when it comes to weight loss. If there was, there would be a lot more skinny people walking around. And while weight loss might not be found in the form of an over-the-counter pill, it can be achieved through a combination of internal work (i.e., building a better relationship with your body), nutrition and exercise.