Do Weight Loss Pills Really Work?

Weight loss pills fall under the category of over-the-counter drugs. These drugs can be of 2 types basically. One type must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This type is called Non-prescription drug. To get approval from the FDA, the producer of these drugs must provide the FDA with results from clinical trials on human that clearly show the safety and effectiveness of that non-prescription drug from a recommended dose. As an example, the maker of Orlistat (Alli) provides FDA with the necessary clinical results to get the approval. Alli is a FDA approved non-prescription drug and it is therefore safe to use.

The other type that is not subject to FDA approval before going to market is known as Dietary supplement. The makers of this kind of drug are only responsible to ensure the safety and benefits of the drug. In this way the standards that are used to regulate the production and marketing aspect of these 2 types of over-the-counter drugs vary significantly. Also, the qualities of research that are used by the producers of these 2 types of drugs are different.


Ingredients and Interactions

The active ingredients of weight-loss pills usually contain herbs and vitamins. Popular stimulant like Caffeine is also used. This results in high blood pressure or in some cases heart palpitations. Ingredients like herbs contain different chemicals. There are health safety issues regarding the presence and concentration of these chemicals. These chemicals can vary according to their source and how they are used in the preparation of the drugs.

In almost all the weight-loss pills, the ingredients are individually tested for safety. The issue of interaction of these ingredients with one another or may be with other medications are not studied. These combined chemical reactions are different from the individual reactions of these ingredients on their own.

Because of these issues the use of a weight loss pill alone or in combination with another weight loss pill often become uncertain risky matter. Increased risk of getting fatal heart arrhythmias due to the combined use of 2 weight loss pills have been reported.


Effects and Side Effects of Weight Loss Pills

Here are 10 popular weight loss pills with their effects and side-effects.


Alli is regarded a nonprescription version of Orlistat. It decreases absorption of dietary fat. It has modest benefit, regarded as less effective than prescription-strength orlistat (Xenical). Side effects include loose stools, oily spotting, frequent or hard-to-control bowel movements, and rare but serious liver damage.

Bitter Orange

Also known as Citrus Aurantium. It increases the amount of calories burned, suppresses appetite. There is a modest benefit from this drug. And side effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke.


This drug blocks absorption of dietary fat. From real research point of view this is regarded as probably ineffective. Some side effects include upsetting stomach, nausea, gas, increased stool bulk, constipation.


As a mineral, it increases lean muscle mass, decreases appetite, increases calories burned. But in research it is regarded as probably ineffective. Side effects include watery stools, headache, weakness, constipation, dizziness, hives, insomnia, nausea, vomiting.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

This is derived from dairy products and beef. It reduces body fat. It has modest benefit.      But it may decrease the good cholesterol and increase the bad cholesterol. Adverse effects include upsetting stomach, nausea, constipation, loose stools.

Green Coffee Extract

It reduces absorption of sugar (glucose), also increases calorie and fat metabolism. It has modest benefit. But excessive use can cause anxiety, agitation, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, nausea.

Green Tea Extract

It decreases fat absorption, also increases calorie and fat metabolism.  But it has slight benefit. The long-term use along with a high dose will cause insomnia, agitation, gas, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and in serious condition, liver damage.

Guar Gum

This is derived from Indian cluster beans. It blocks absorption of dietary fat, can increase your feeling of fullness. But it is regarded as probably ineffective. Side effects include abdominal pain, gas and diarrhea.


It is claimed to decrease appetite. But it is regarded as probably ineffective. Side effects include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting. Moreover, possible increase in heart rate, high blood pressure is also observed.

Raspberry Ketone

This is said to be a popular weight loss drug that increases fat metabolism. But there are insufficient data on its real effects and potential side effects.


Safety Precautions

In any situation, FDA can provide with scientific proofs to demonstrate that a drug is not safe. In those situations, FDA can ban and prohibit the production and marketing of that drug. Disciplinary actions may be taken against the manufacturer of the drug in case the FDA discovers that the drug does not show a benefit as claimed by the maker. Therefore the weight loss pills available in the market should be FDA approved and the buyer has to check that.

Moreover, there are differences in production, marketing and research of different weight loss pills. This can make the matter difficult for a user to take decision on a product. An informed decision is the key point here. It is important to note that limited research often makes it very difficult for any user to comprehend the safety of a weight-loss supplement. This is true even for a natural substance. As an example, Ephedra which is a natural herbal stimulant was banned by the FDA in 2004. After Ephedra was marketed already, the FDA found that there are potential adverse effects of Ephedra.


Expectation and Reality

It is now well established fact that the best way to deal weight loss is related to your lifestyle. Low calorie diet, preference to fresh fruits and vegetables, being physically active are the key factors in successful weight loss strategy. The weight loss pills can only supplement in to that effort. But in reality many people take these supplements as the main element in their overall weight loss plans.

All the weight-loss pills, be it a prescription medicine, non-prescription drug, herbal or any other type of supplement is worth in proportion to the amount of research on them. Among all these drugs, only the prescription weight-loss drugs are regarded as best studied and well researched. These are FDA approved. Prescription weight-loss pills can be regarded as a beneficial tool but these are by no means essential. Moreover, they often do not work in case of everyone. The effects and impacts of weight loss pills vary from individual to individual. And in case of over-the-counter weight-loss products, there is more uncertainty. The researchers do not know much about potential health risk or benefit of a product, until it is researched more.

Last update: April 05, 2017 08:47:40 pm

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