While diet and exercise are often the best ways to lose weight, many people look for good diet pills to help them shed the pounds. After all, the promise of a miracle “weight loss in a bottle” solution is hard to resist.
That said, experts recommend always talking to your doctor before using any type of weight loss medication. This is because, in general, these drugs are only recommended for people with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or higher who also suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes or other medical conditions that are aggravated by excessive weight.
While over-the-counter diet pills don’t require a prescription, it might still be wise to talk to your doctor before trying one, especially if you have an underlying medical condition, suffer from any allergies, or are currently taking other medications.
Prescription Diet Pills
Prescription diet pills are drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat obesity. There are currently only three drugs approved for long-term (over 12 weeks) treatment of obesity: Xenical, Qsymia, and Belviq.
Xenical contains the drug orlistat, a fat blocker. When taking orlistat, about a third of the fat a person eats cannot be absorbed, instead passing through the body undigested.
Xenical has a number of uncomfortable side effects, including cramping, leaking oily stool, diarrhea, gas, and more. It also has the potential of causing liver damage. Plus, because orlistat affects the absorption of fat, it might also lead to deficiencies of certain fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Belviq is an appetite suppressant that should be used along with a reduced-calorie diet and an exercise plan. When used properly, it should lead to a weight loss of at least 5 percent of your body weight within the first 12 weeks.
Belviq can cause low blood sugar, so it can’t be used by people with diabetes. Other side effects include dizziness, fatigue, and headaches.
Qsymia is a combination weight loss pill that suppresses appetite. It’s one of the newest approved drugs for weight loss (it’s only been in the market since 2012).
Over-the-Counter Diet Pills
The Only FDA-Approved Diet Pill: Alli
The only FDA-approved diet pill available over the counter is Alli. Alli is a lighter version of Xenical, containing about a third of the amount of orlistat than Xenical does.
Other Over-the-Counter Diet Pills
All other diet pills available over the counter are considered “dietary supplements” by the FDA, which means clinical trials are not required before they can enter the market. As a result, many diet pills sold at pharmacies and health food stores are, at best, ineffective – if not downright dangerous. Many don’t even contain the ingredients listed on the label or they contain erroneous amounts.
Some ingredients used in diet pills have been studied and proven relatively effective for weight loss, but more research is needed in order to confirm their effectiveness and safety.
Garnicia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid)
Garnicia extract has been used as a natural remedy to treat stomach problems for hundreds of years. However, recent research suggests it can also be effective in controlling appetite and blocking fat absorption.
In fact, a systemic review published in the Journal of Obesity showed that “Garcinia extracts/HCA can cause short-term weight loss,” although more studies are needed to confirm this and to study long-term results.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is an amino acid found primarily in animal products and safflower oil. As a supplement, it’s used as a fat burner, though studies conducted in humans have produced mixed results.
According to a system review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, patients taking CLA experience a modest loss in body fat compared to those taking a placebo. Mayo Clinic identifies CLA as “possibly effective” among a large number of weight loss supplements.
Are There Other Good Diet Pills?
Other diet pills in the market have not been properly evaluated, so it’s hard to say whether they work. For example, Hoodia – a relatively new addition to the weight loss industry – has not been successfully tested in humans, and animal studies have been inconclusive.
Chitosan, another popular fat blocker, is described by Mayo Clinic as “probably ineffective.” While the active ingredient in chitosan could, in theory, work in a similar way to orlistat, the amount contained in diet pills is too small to cause any significant results. Plus, Mayo Clinic points out it might cause gas, diarrhea, and other side effects.
Still Need to Eat Healthy and Exercise
One last thing to keep in mind: even when taking prescription pills, you still need to follow a sensible eating plan and exercise to help with your weight loss efforts!