Are diet pills safe? Some are – but some definitely are not. Read on to find out which diet aids you can trust, and which you should never take.
Diet pills work in three main ways. To answer the question ‘are diet pills safe?’ let’s look at all three types in turn.
1. Appetite Suppressants
The idea of appetite suppressants (as you might guess) is that they can make you less hungry, so you eat less. Phentermine is an example of an appetite suppressant. It is only available on prescription and is marketed under many different names, including Adipex-P, Suprenza, Teramine and Kraftobese.
Phentermine is prescribed for short periods only because it is habit-forming. So it’s not safe to try to buy it illegally. Apart from its addicting qualities the side effects, if any, are usually mild: some people suffer from constipation, insomnia or a dry mouth; others notice no side effects at all.
Non-prescription weight loss supplements that are marketed as appetite suppressants include hoodia and chromium. Chromium is an essential mineral that can be found in some multi vitamin tablets and it is considered safe at the recommended dosage. Hoodia is a natural supplement that has not been tested so thoroughly.
Do appetite suppressants work? This is a good question. It’s clear that a person with normal eating habits probably would lose weight when they are less hungry. Just look at what happens to people of normal weight when they are stressed or depressed. They have no appetite and they lose tons of weight.
But for people who are significantly overweight, it’s not so easy. We tend to comfort eat even when we’re not hungry, and eat beyond the point where we feel full. So even if you are taking an appetite suppressant it’s important to find activities to distract you from the thought of food at times when you are not hungry.
2. Fat Blockers
The best known fat blocker is orlistat which is marketed on prescription as Xenical. The non-prescription form, which is a lower dosage, is available from drugstores under the name of Alli.
Orlistat has some side effects including loose stools (diarrhea) that can be embarrassing, especially if you eat too much fat. This is a good thing in a way because it means you MUST regulate your intake of fat when you are taking orlistat. You could still overeat sugar, pasta etc but it will surely stop you having those super high calorie foods that are stuffed with both fat and sugar, like donuts and chocolate.
3. Metabolism Boosters
The first two types of diet pills worked by having us eat less. The third works by increasing the number of calories we burn, so that we can eat the same amount and still lose weight. These are known as metabolism boosters or stimulants.
One example of a metabolism boosting diet pill was ephedra, which was mostly prescribed as a decongestant but was sometimes also taken for weight loss. It was banned from sale in the US in 2004 because it was found to be linked to a higher risk of death from heart attacks and strokes.
There are many other stimulants that people can take but they do have side effects and may not be good for health. For example, caffeine is a stimulant. You can also get metabolism boosting diet pills that are advertised as being ephedra-free. Some of these contain a natural substance that has similar effects to ephedra and may be just as dangerous.
Are diet pills safe? They can be, but not always. Something that is safe for one person can have life-threatening side effects for another person. To be sure, it’s best to take diet pills under medical supervision.