Those cheap diet pills on the shelf might look tempting, but how well do they really work? Well, perhaps not as well as you might have hoped.
The first thing you should know about diet pills is that they’re considered nutritional supplements, not drugs, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).This is an important distinction because the FDA does not require testing or clinical trials for supplements like it does in the case of medications.
In fact, it basically works like this: drugs must be proven safe before they reach the market, but supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise. If there’s no specific complaint about a supplement (including diet pills), then the FDA will leave the manufacturer alone – even if there’s no proof that the product works.
As a result, you only have the seller’s word that a weight loss product is effective – no third-party guarantees, no research backing up that specific product or brand.
Cheap Diet Pills, What Does That Mean For You?
Because there are no regulations regarding diet pills, there’s also no guarantee that the product does what it says it does. In fact, there’s not even a guarantee that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label.
For example, according to a recent ConsumerLab report, a large percentage of weight loss pills claiming to contain Garcinia cambogia extract (a potential antiobesity agent) doesn’t match the promises listed on the bottle.
Of the 13 products ConsumerLab tested, seven contained less than 81 percent of the promised Garcinia cambogia extract, with some containing as little as 14 percent.
Even in the pills that did contain the promised ingredient, the dosage still didn’t meet the minimum recommended in clinical trials to cause a significant amount of weight loss.
Other famous diet pill ingredients that have little to no effect on weight include chitosan, chromium and bitter orange, according to Mayo Clinic. These are common ingredients in weight loss products, but Mayo Clinic deems all three as “probably ineffective.”
The conclusion seems to be that buying some of these cheap diet pills might be akin to gambling: you might get the promised product or you might not, and there’s no guarantee that you will get any significant amount to actually see any results.
Tainted Weight Loss Products
The FDA maintains a list of weight loss products that have been proven unsafe or tainted (containing unnamed ingredients or controlled substances). Many of the diet pills that make it into the list are marked as “containing a hidden drug ingredient.”
For example, a recent addition to the list is Slim Trim U, a diet pill that contains sibutramine, a controlled substance banned since 2010 because it raises blood pressure significantly. The same ingredient was found in dozens of other cheap diet pills in 2014 alone. Because the FDA doesn’t test all weight loss products out there, chances are there are many other products on the market with equally unsafe or unproven ingredients.
ConsumerLab: Product Review: Garcinia Cambogia (HCA) Supplements
FDA: Tainted Weight Loss Products
Cancer: FDA regulation of drugs versus dietary supplements