Alli: A Weight Loss Drug
Alli (orlistat) is an over-the-counter medication used to help people lose weight. Studies have shown that Alli can help people lose more weight than dieting alone. The weight loss drug is intended for overweight adults age 18 and older who follow a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet.
A stronger dose of the same active ingredient in Alli is available by prescription. It is sold under the brand name Xenical. Xenical may also be recommended after weight loss surgery to help patients keep off the lost pounds.
How Does Alli Work?
Alli belongs to a class of drugs called lipase inhibitors. Such medications block the intestines from absorbing some of the fat in the foods that you eat. Specifically, Alli blocks about 25% of the fat that you consume. Fats that are not absorbed exit your body through stools, or bowel movements. Some data suggest that treatment with Alli helps reduce the amount of a particularly dangerous type of belly fat, called visceral fat. Visceral fat has been linked to several chronic, life-threatening conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Is Alli Right for Me?
You should only take Alli if you are overweight and have already tried dieting and exercise. If they haven't worked for you, talk to your health care provider about a weight management program that involves medication. But remember, you still must follow a healthy lifestyle, one that involves regular exercise and eating right.
To determine if you are overweight, you can calculate your body mass index (BMI) using your height and weight information. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.
How Do I Take Alli?
Alli comes in capsule form. It is taken by mouth three times a day with a meal or up to one hour afterwards. You should take the drug with a meal that contains a little bit of fat, but not too much. If you eat a no-fat meal, your doctor may tell you to skip your dose of medicine. Never take more medicine than recommended.
It is important to follow a lower-calorie, low-fat diet while taking this medication. Ask your health care provider for diet recommendations. If you eat a lot of fatty foods, even just one high-fat meal like a greasy burger, you are more likely to have uncomfortable digestive-related side effects from the medication. Choose lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products. In general, no more than 30% of your calories at each meal should come from fat.
You will also need to take a daily multivitamin that contains vitamins A, D, E, K, and beta-carotene while on this drug. The drug's fat-blocking properties also make it more difficult for your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Do not take vitamins and Alli at the same time.