Written by: Tawanda Amedio Taderera (Pharmacist)

Let us face it, obesity  is rapidly becoming uncontrollable epidemic. More and more adults getting are fatter and unhealthier every day. Faced with such challenges, there are an increasing number of people who are looking for a fast solution to their weight problems and it is no doubt that the lure and appeal of using diet pills is inevitable.

Diet pills appear to provide a simple, quick and easy way to lose weight. Unlike dieting or exercise all you have to do is to drink a few tablets every day and viola you get into shape…all this without much effort too!!!

Who wouldn’t want such a product in this modern world of quick fixes, mobile phones, microwave meals and instant gratification?

But, is it really that simple? Can you just drink a few pills and then expect to lose weight while you are sleeping? Are diet pills really that effective?  Are these pills even safe to use at all or are they just another way to take money from you?

First things first let us call a spade a spade; just like there is no tooth fairy, there is no magic pill for losing weight! The best and most effective way out there to lose weight and maintain your lost weight is through a change in your lifestyle. You must eat healthy and boost your metabolism through increased physical activity like exercise. The journey to weight loss is gradual and you should never expect overnight results. If you see anything promising overnight results it is most likely a scam. So I do not advise you to waste your time trolling about all over the internet looking for a quick fix miracle weight loss cure. It is simply not there so why not exercise some patience, they say “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

Secondly as far as losing weight is concerned, diet pills will help but only in the short term. They will never work in the long term unless you embark on a lifestyle change.

To elaborate further on this point let us assume that diet pills work 100% to make you lose weight. What it means is that you need to drink a few tablets every day to lose weight and maintain the lost weight. You will be expected to continue drinking diet pills every day of your life as long you live if you want to maintain your weight! Now I am not sure how practical this is to you but it seems pretty darn monotonous to me. I also know for a fact that it will cost a lot of money in the long run. There are bound to be slips long the way; either you will stop taking the pills and regain all the lost weight or you will seesaw between taking the pills and not taking them. Both of which do not offer a permanent solution to weight loss. It is from this that I conclude weight loss pills cannot be used effectively for long term weight loss only for short term gains.

Now that we know that diet pills will only work in the short term, we need to look at their safety. How safe are diet pills? Before answering this let us dig deeper and look at the various types of diet pills that are available on the market. There are many different diet pills out there and they all work in different ways. Some work by suppressing appetite, some work by reducing absorption of fat from the intestines and some work by increasing your metabolism.

In this article I will use references from the USA to make things simple and standard.

According to regulatory bodies like the USA FDA there are 4 categories of diet pills that they consider when monitoring safety. These categories are namely: dietary supplements, herbal medicines, prescription pills and non-prescription pills. From the FDA perspective the standards for regulating all these different types of pills vary. Essentially the standards that apply to prescription and non-prescription pills are higher and much stricter than the standards that apply to herbal and dietary supplements.

What this means is that only prescription and non-prescription pills have solid clinical data to prove their safety since they need to be approved by the FDA before they are marketed. Other products especially the so called diet supplements do not require FDA approval prior to marketing it is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims made about such products are true.

This means the safety claims that come with such products are anyone’s lucky guess. Some diet pill companies are unethical and you should always keep an eye out for potential scams. Some potential warning signs you should watch out for in a product are:

  • Promises of quick results, for example, “lose 15 pounds in one week.”
  • Use of the words “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough.”
  • Products marketed in a foreign language.
  • Products marketed through mass e-mails.
  • Products marketed as herbal alternatives to an FDA-approved drug or as having effects similar to prescription drugs.

Even in cases where the pill company provides clinical safety data, the quality of such research still needs to be questioned; it may probably be biased towards a marketing goal or some other agenda.

My advice then with regard to taking diet pills is you should consult a medical professional like a doctor or pharmacist to advise you on the best option to take for diet pills. Such professionals will be able to work with you and develop a weight loss plan that fits your particular physiological and metabolic needs. Moreover, a medical professional is in a best position to advise you on the most proven and clinically tested weight loss pill options. I think that this sounds better than relying on a personal “testimonial” from a pretty lady about the incredible results she got in 1 week from using a certain diet pill that you know absolutely nothing about.

If you are not comfortable with consulting a medical professional then my only other advice to you is to do thorough research by yourself on the safety profile of the diet pills you want to use before you buy them. Check to see their safety and efficacy before you buy them. General information on many dietary supplements can be found online but you must make sure you know what you are doing.

So after all this I will ask you, why even bother with pills? Besides, no one even knows the long term effects of any of these products FDA approved or not be they prescription, non-prescription, herbal or dietary supplement.

The only way to ever lose weight successfully and keep it at off is through regular and proper exercise and a healthy diet. Such a lifestyle change will not only keep you strong, fit and healthy but will be easier on your wallet too. Besides does it really make sense to eat something else to lose weight?

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