Your Health: Do Diet Pills Really Work?
Published November 6th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Pills are supposed to make you feel better, but this is about as far from a cure as you can imagine. The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are investigating whether a weight loss drug is to blame for several cases of acute hepatitis, liver failer, and one death.
The Hawaii Department of Health reported the illnesses and their possible link to the diet pill OxyElite Pro. This case is just one of many in which diet pills continue to promise results, and cause problems.
Despite many of the known risks, new products come on the market every year, adding to a multibillion dollar diet industry.
Supplements, pills, shakes, and many other products all promise to be the one that really works.
With an estimated 150-million American adults overweight or obese, it's no surprise anything that promises weight loss would see sales.
We spoke with Dr. Amelia Davis, the Medical Director of the Adult Eating Disorder and Obesity Program at UF Health, about the health risks posed by many of these so-called weight loss drugs.
"the FDA doesn't regulate them as well as they do for prescription medications," Davis says.
Not only are you getting a potentially unsafe product, over-the-counter weight loss drugs can also impact your prescription medication.
"For someone who is obese and has multiple medical conditions, they might be on lots of different medications," Davis says, "so to add herbal supplements - or something where we don't know what's in them - could make things a little scary."
Medical concerns aside, some OTC products might move the needle on the scale, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're burning calories.
"Realistically, the general recommendations are no more than 2 to 3 pounds a week," Davis says, "if you're losing more than that, you're likely to be losing muscle mass or fluid more than actual fat."
Currently, Alli is the only FDA approved weight loss drug available over the counter. There are two others available with a prescription.
Davis says even these drugs are only used to help jumpstart weight loss and not as a permanent solution. She says there's really no substitute for diet and exercise.
"I think in the future there's potential to help people but at this point over the counter weight loss medications aren't where they need to be," she says.
Research is headed towards weight loss drugs that target the mental and emotional triggers that lead to overeating, Davis says, instead of drugs that suppress appetite or target your metabolism.
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