Are you at a healthy weight?
Before you consider
whether to use any over-the-counter diet aid, find out if you really need to
lose weight. A healthy weight is the weight you reach when you're active and
eating right. Many people who carry around a few extra pounds are still at a
If you practice healthy eating habits and are
active enough to stay healthy, then a few extra pounds is not bad for your
health unless you have other medical problems. On the other hand, dieting
can be bad for your health. Diets almost never work, and
they can cause many people to fall into an unhealthy cycle of losing and
gaining weight. This is often called "yo-yo dieting." Yo-yo dieting may be
harder on the body than just being overweight.
If you are thinking
about losing weight, ask your doctor whether it's a good idea for you.
What are over-the-counter diet aids?
many products for weight loss that you can buy without a prescription at
drugstores and supermarkets and over the Internet.
Many of these have never been proven to work, and those that
do work usually come with warnings.
list of popular over-the-counter diet aids.
What about Alli?
Alli (say "AL-eye") is a lower-dose version of
the prescription drug
orlistat (Xenical), which is used to treat obesity.
You can buy Alli without a prescription.
Orlistat has been proven
to help people lose weight.1 It works by preventing
fat absorption, so that the fat you eat moves through your intestines
undigested. But the weight loss amounts to only a few pounds, and the drug's
side effects can be very unpleasant.
The side effects include
sudden loose stools and oily spotting on your underwear. The more fat you eat,
the worse the side effects are, so it's best to avoid fat while you are taking
Do not take Alli if you:
- Have had an organ transplant.
pregnant or breast-feeding.
Talk to your doctor before you take Alli, but especially
- Take blood-thinning
- Have diabetes or thyroid disease.
What are the risks or side effects of over-the-counter diet aids?
Most over-the-counter diet aids don't have to pass
government tests for safety or effectiveness.
are the only way to tell whether a medicine or supplement works and is safe.
And there are very few such studies of diet aids. But we know about the
- Over-the-counter appetite suppressants
shouldn't be used by people who have heart disease, high blood pressure,
diabetes, kidney problems, thyroid problems, glaucoma, or depression.
Appetite suppressants are only intended for use for a short time (8 to 12
weeks). But staying at a healthy weight is a lifelong effort. It is costly and
possibly dangerous to depend on these medicines to control your weight for long
periods of time. If you are going to use these drugs to help you lose weight,
be sure to also make healthy changes to your diet and get regular exercise.
Water-loss pills (diuretics, such as Aqua-Ban) only get rid of water and do not
reduce the amount of fat in your body. Using water-loss pills to lose weight is
not recommended and can be dangerous.
- Because diet
supplements are not regulated, manufacturers sometimes make claims that aren't
true. For example, just because the label says the supplement is "all natural"
doesn't mean it’s safe. Many things that are "natural" can still hurt you. And
manufacturers may cite only their own studies to show how well their products
- Many products contain 20 or more ingredients, so it’s really
hard to know how all the ingredients will interact with each other in your body
and how they will interact with any other medicines or supplements you may be
- You shouldn't take cough or cold medicines while you take
some of these diet pills. They contain some of the same medicine, and you could
get too much. Ask your pharmacist if it's safe to take cold medicine with the
diet pills you are taking.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned
the sale of ephedra because of concerns about safety. The product has been
linked to heart attacks, strokes, and some deaths. Ephedra and ephedrine-the
active ingredient in ephedra-decrease appetite by increasing
It's wise to talk to
your doctor before you take any over-the-counter diet aid.
Why might my doctor recommend an over-the-counter diet aid?
Your doctor is not likely to recommend that you use an
over-the-counter diet aid in your efforts to reach a healthy weight and stay
there. The best way to get to a healthy weight and stay there is to eat right
and exercise regularly.
If you need more information, see the topic