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This Month In Body
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    Is there an exercise that ranks number one for weight loss? If there is such an exercise, would you do it? Read >>
  • Do Weight Loss Drugs Work?
    Who are candidates for weight loss drugs, how do they work (if they work at all), and what are the risks? Read >>
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  • Exercise to Lose Weight
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Health and Fitness News
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Do Weight Loss Drugs Work?

The skinny on weight-loss pills.

Looking for a quick, easy, relatively painless way to lose weight, many overweight people try weight-loss pills. Available in both prescription and over-the-counter form, weight loss drugs are—contrary to popular belief—no quick fix.

Obesity doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does weight loss. Not to be considered a cure-all, weight-loss drugs must be combined with dietary changes and regular exercise in order to be successful in the long term.

Who are candidates for weight loss drugs, how do they work (if they work at all), and what are the risks?

Who’s Eligible?

Your doctor may prescribe a weight loss drug if you fit one of the following requirements:

  • your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher and you don’t suffer from obesity-related health conditions
  • your BMI is greater than 27 and you do have an obesity-related condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes

What’s Available?

Various types of weight loss drugs are out there. Appetite suppressants are available by prescription or over-the-counter and should only be used short-term. Phentermine is one such type of appetite suppressant drug. These extended release capsules trick your mind to think you’re full. Therefore, you won’t feel as hungry and eat less.

Another type of prescription drug, Qsymia combines phentermine with topiramate (a seizure/migraine drug), and works by suppressing your appetite, makes food taste unappetizing, and increases the rate at which you burn calories.

A third type of prescription weight loss pill works by inhibiting the absorption of fat. Instead of being absorbed by your body, fat is eliminated through bowel movements. Xenical blocks 30 percent of the fat you eat from being absorbed by your body. This drug is now available over the counter like Alli and has been shown to be moderately effective, though not without unpleasant side effects.

Numerous other pills promising weight loss are available at your drugstore, health food store, or online, but only prescription drugs have been tested as safe and effective. So do your homework before trying a new pill.

Risks of Weight-Loss Drugs

The weight lost by taking these pills may provide short-term health benefits for obese people, but the long-term effects of these medications haven’t been studied. In addition, weight loss drugs aren’t without risk or negative side effects. Side effects of appetite suppressants include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, constipation, sweating, insomnia, lightheadedness, drowsiness, excessive thirst, headache, and anxiety.

Qsymia is not safe for women to take during pregnancy as it increases the risk for birth defects. Those with hyperthyroidism, glaucoma, heart disease, or a recent stroke should also not take Qsymia.

Side effects of Xenical (Alli) include unpleasant bowel and abdominal issues including frequent bowel movements, gas, leakage of stool, and cramping. These side effects may be temporary but may worsen when fatty foods are eaten. A daily multivitamin is recommended since the drug reduces the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Additionally, with the exception of Xenical, prescription obesity drugs can be addictive. Therefore, physicians must follow restrictions and monitor their usage.

As with any weight loss, medication-induced weight loss plateaus after approximately six months. This is most likely due to a developed tolerance for the drug or the drug losing its effectiveness.

Talk With Your Doctor

If you’re considering an over-the-counter or prescription weight loss drug, include your doctor in your decision-making process. Discuss allergies; pregnancy plans; current medications, herbs, and supplements you’re taking; and existing medical conditions.