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Weight Loss Pills: The Complete Guide

Weight Loss Pills: The Complete Guide

Weight loss pills are among the most controversial topics out there, partly due to the lack of reliable information on their safety and effectiveness.

You’ve probably heard of many different types of pills and supplements that are claimed to help you cut weight or increase the effectiveness of other weight loss methods.

In most cases, weight loss pills work through one or a combination of the following mechanisms;

  1. Suppressing appetite – these pills make you feel full, thereby reducing the amount of food and calories you consume.
  2. Burning fat – increasing the amount of calories your body burns
  3. Reducing absorption – they inhibit the uptake of certain nutrients in your digestive system, thus reducing the total number of calories you eat per meal.

These drugs are highly controversial due to the wealth of confusing information that can be found on the Internet.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked yourself at least one question relating to the safety and/or effectiveness of weight loss supplements, pills, and fat burners.

You’ve also probably wondered whether weight loss pills can work without dieting and exercise.

Can doctors prescribe them? Why? How? To whom?

How about FDA approval?

I have been there too. A few weeks ago, I went on Google to look for answers as we all do.

I was surprised by the amount of conflicting information out there.

That was a problem for me! How was I supposed to make sense of any of it?

Was it even true?

Realizing I might not be the only one searching for reliable answers, I gave myself an assignment; – to create a single, comprehensive document that contained all the info about weight loss pills and supplements!

Tough task, right? You betcha!  (Ain’t complaining though. Twas worth it!)

After six weeks of research, endless tiring days, gallons of coffee, a sore butt, numb fingers, and a dilapidated keyboard, I have finally compiled what I think is a complete guide to weight loss pills and supplements.

Hope this helps!


The old saying is my personal guide: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. For anyone who needs to lose weight, the old advice still applies:
·        Check with your health care provider.
·        Learn about nutrition that meets your health needs.
·        Exercise safely and consistently.
If you think someone is having a reaction to a dietary supplement, don’t try to ignore it. If the person is having seizures, not breathing, or has collapsed, call 911. For other symptoms, or if you think you’re having a reaction to a hidden ingredient, call 1-800-222-1222. Or use the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance if too much was swallowed. Whether online or by phone, Poison Control provides expert guidance 24 hours a day.

Types of Weight Loss Pills

We have compiled a list some of the common types of weight loss pills available for sale.

Weight loss pills fall under two broad categories; prescription and non-prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Generally, prescription weight loss pills are also known as anti-obesity medications.

These pharmacological agents are used to control or reduce weight in overweight or obese people by altering your body’s biological processes, such as calorie absorption and appetite.

PS: physical exercise and dieting remain the primary treatment modalities for overweight and obese people.

Over-the-counter weight loss pills are quite self-explanatory. They do not require a doctor’s prescription.

Weight loss medications can also be classified as fat burners, thyroid supplements, metabolism boosters, or appetite suppressants, depending on their mechanisms of action.

Over-the-counter weight loss supplements

These weight loss pills are readily available in drug stores and supermarkets without a doctor’s prescription.

However, they are FDA regulated. 

Weight loss pills containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA) as an active ingredient are considered as drugs rather than dietary supplements.

The FDA recommends that companies should avoid the use of PPA in their products since it increases the risk of stroke.

Nevertheless, most drugs in the present-day market still contain the ingredient. Many OTC drugs are currently under research and evaluation by the FDA.

Prescription weight loss pills

These are the weight loss pills that are only offered by through a doctor’s prescription. They are carefully regulated by FDA and monitored to ensure that they are not sold without a qualified doctor’s consent.

Even then, doctors insist on eating less carbs, reducing portion sizes, and working out.

This means that even when taking the drugs, you should also focus on your diet.

In most cases, doctors prescribe these medicines to people with a BMI of 30 more (overweight and obese).

The pills may also be recommended to people with a conditions related to their weight, such as high blood pressure or type-2 diabetes.

Before starting a weight loss program as recommended by a doctor, it is crucial that you share your entire medical history, including allergies, breastfeeding, and other medical conditions that you may be having, or if you are planning to have a baby soon. 

Herbal supplements

Just like the non-prescription weight loss pills, they are available without prescription by a doctor.

There is a wide variety of herbal weight loss supplements mainly sold in food and health stores and in some supermarkets.

The FDA regards them as food products and recommends that they are labeled as natural products. Their regulation is different from that of OTC drugs since that are considered to fall under the nutrition category.

How do Weight Loss Pills Work?

Major weight loss supplements’ manufacturers are of the view that the pills do not only boost energy but also melt away all fats.

Does this mean that if I take the small pill I will no longer have to diet or exercise?

Can eat all I can and wait to the supplements to do the magic?

 With over 60% of Americans considered as obese or overweight, diet supplements have contributed to emergence of a multibillion industry across the world.

 The question is, do diet drugs offer a quick fix to the weight loss puzzle as commonly advertized?

Are they really a solution to weight loss?

As stated in the previous section, weight loss pills possess one or more active constituents designed to increase metabolism rate, burn fats, reduce fat absorption, or suppress appetite. Care should be taken on the choice of weight pills since they are not manufactured the same.

 While weight loss supplements promise instant results, it is worth noting that some are associated with heart problems and health issues that can result to death.

Weight loss pills are available in the form of prescription drugs, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter medications.

So, how exactly do these medicines they work?

Suppressing appetite

Weight loss pills contain active ingredients that regulate the brain’s hypothalamus that is responsible for appetite control. They help in creating a feeling satisfaction after taking light meals by making one feel full. Consequently, one ends up eating few calories.

Control fat absorption

Weight loss supplements contain enzyme inhibitors that prevent the action of fat break down and absorption. More fats leave the stomach through bowel movement and egested from the body instead of being breaken down and absorbed..

Increase burning of fats

Some weight loss pills contain fat loss supplements the enable the body to burn more fats by increasing cellular metabolism. Others increase the heart rate, leading to heat production and sweating, which subsequently enables the body to lose more weight.

Hormonal balance

The correction of hormonal imbalances by some weight loss pills is beneficial to persons striving to lose weight. Hormonal balance stabilizes blood sugar levels and promotes muscle growth as opposed to the accumulation of fats.

To achieve significant results, weight loss pills are designed for long term use. In addition, past studies have shown that a combination of effectual supplements and lifestyle changes lead to better outcomes.

Weight loss pills can cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, increased appetite, low blood pressure and constipation. Other serious side effects include gall bladder diseases, suicidal thoughts, pancreatitis, kidney problems and increased heart rate.

Let’s get into the details of each broad classification;

Appetite suppressants

Also known as anorectics, appetite suppressants reduce appetite, leading to lower food consumption and subsequent weight loss. They are also known as anorexigenics or anorexiants.

These drugs are used clinically for the short-term treatment of obesity, although a few are available without a prescription.

Most of the common natural brands of anorectics are based on Hoodia, a flowering, cactus-like plant that grows in Africa’s Kalahari Desert.

Very little is known about this plant and its safety because only one study has been done on human beings.

Other brands are a blend of several natural ingredients, primarily green tea and other plant extracts.

A number of cases of heart valve damage, hemorrhagic stroke, and pulmonary hypertension have been recorded in history and led to the withdrawal of drugs such as Aminorex, Fenfluramine, and Phenylpropanolamine from the market.

See Also

Some of the commonly known anorectics include cocaine, nicotine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine.

The guys at Healthline have reviewed some of the most common over-the-counter appetite suppressants.

Thyroid supplements

Thyroid hormones have been used for weight loss for decades.

It’s actually very tempting to disregard their severe side effects because they cause rapid weight loss.

However, like every other quick weight loss scheme (is that even a thing?), thyroid hormones will not produce lasting effects.

And that is if you are among the very few who manage to escape the inevitable trouble that comes with increasing your body’s thyroid hormone levels beyond normal levels, such as loss of bone and muscle, as well as heart problems.

So how does it work so well yet produce devastating effects?

The thyroid gland is a master of metabolism.

Too much hormone will make you lose weight while increasing your appetite dramatically, leading to a net weight gain.

Below normal levels of thyroid hormone slow down metabolism and reduce appetite.

The hormone regulates the speed of metabolism.

Just as Mohamed Ali found out in 1980, thyroid weight loss pills are not designed for weight loss purposes.

Despite unequivocal warnings, some unscrupulous doctors will still prescribe synthroid to overweight patients even when blood tests show normal levels of thyroid hormones.

Sure, it will work in the long-term, but all that weight (and more) will all come back in the long term. Plus, you just might pick up a health condition or two along the way!

Here are some more reasons why you should avoid using thyroid supplements.

Metabolism boosters

Just as the name suggests, metabolism boosters “boost your metabolism” (sorry, couldn’t find better words).

Ok, let’s define metabolism:-

Metabolism is a term that is used to describe all chemical reactions involved in maintaining the living state of the cells and the organism. Metabolism can be conveniently divided into two categories:
Catabolism – the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy
Anabolism – the synthesis of all compounds needed by the cells

Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD.

You might have seen weight loss pills and supplements advertised as metabolism boosters.

But do they work?

Thermogenesis (increased heat production) is the name given to the process through which these weight loss pills supposedly work.

They increase your body’s energy use, burn calories, and increase metabolism.

Most of these supplements or pills contain numerous ingredients, such as caffeine, capsaicin, L-carnitine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), chromium picolinate, green tea, and resveratrol.

Despite most of them being plant extracts, most of them lack sufficient scientific evidence to back any claims of their effects on weight loss.

The little available evidence shows small and uncertain effects on fat and weight loss.

Most of the metabolism boosters out there fail to produce significant effects on weight loss.

I think I found a rational explanation to why this may be the case:

Your basal metabolic rate depends on a number of factors, including genetics, age, height, weight, gender, diet, health conditions, and body makeup. The only true and tested way of increasing metabolism significantly is by influencing a multiple factors simultaneously, not one at a time. Metabolism boosters cannot do that, so, their effects will only be short-term.

To be continued…

In the mean time, we made it to Feedspot’s list of the Top 100 Healthy Food blogs. It’s such an honor! Thank you all!

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