The Dangers of Weight Loss Pills

There are healthier ways to lose weight, even if it means more work

Weight loss pills are often marketed as a quick fix for long-term weight loss. TV and magazine ads promise the pills will boost your metabolism, increase your energy and help you lose weight quickly. As much as we might wish they were, weight loss pills aren’t a magic solution to losing weight. There are thousands available, but do weight loss pills really work? And is there one that’s right one for you?

Do weight loss pills really work?

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, weight loss pills can be effective when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, and can help you lose more weight than just diet and exercise alone. The combination of the three — eating less, exercising more and weight loss pills — can help you lose between 5 percent and 10 percent of your total body weight within one year. However, weight loss pills alone, without any lifestyle changes, are not a healthy or effective way to lose weight.

Ephedra, weight loss and you

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of ephedra weight loss pills in 2004 due to concern about serious side effects, including death. The FDA claimed that ephedra raises blood pressure, stresses the circulatory system and “poses an unreasonable risk” to the health of people who take ephedra weight loss products. Because the sale of ephedra weight loss pills remains illegal, the weight loss supplement industry has begun marketing “ephedra-free,” “ephedrine-free” or “legal” ephedra products, in which ephedra is replaced with other weight loss stimulants like bitter orange and caffeine.

However, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., says bitter orange contains chemicals similar to ephedra, such as synephrine and octopamine, which may speed up your heart rate and increase your blood pressure, and that bitter orange is not a safe replacement for ephedra weight loss supplements.

What are prescription weight loss pills?

Prescription weight loss pills are designed for people who are dangerously overweight, not just looking to lose a few pounds. According to the Mayo Clinic, two prescription weight loss pills have been approved by the FDA for long-term weight loss: Meridia and Xenical. Both have uncomfortable side effects, including bloating, constipation and abdominal pain. Other prescription weight loss pills, like Adipex-P, are approved only for short-term use (usually 12 weeks or less) and have not been studied for their long-term effectiveness. Alli is an FDA-approved, over-the-counter weight loss pill, and is the reduced-strength version of Xenical.

Rapid weight loss pills

Rapid weight loss sure sounds appealing, especially if it can be gained in pill form, but, in reality, rapid weight loss is dangerous and unhealthy. These pills can have severe side effects, and the results often don’t last. The safest and most effective way to lose weight is to eat a healthier diet and exercise more. So skip the rapid weight loss pills and change your eating habits and exercise routine!

Side effects

It is very important to be aware of the dangers and side effects of weight loss and diet pills. Most weight loss pills are either appetite suppressants or stimulants, and they can have adverse effects on your heart rate, as well as gastrointestinal side effects. And because some weight loss pills hinder the absorption of some fat into your body, they also can prohibit the absorption of vital nutrients.

You should always consult a doctor before using any weight loss pills.

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