What are diet pills?

Diet pills are medications, over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription, meant to aid in weight loss. Some of these medications contain one or more active ingredients that curb appetite, boost metabolism, prevent the digestion and absorption of fat or carbohydrates, increase metabolism, or block the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that may suppress appetite. One prescription weight loss pill, phentermine, has limited evidence to support its effectiveness in helping people lose weight and keep it off for over one year. Moreover, other prescription medications like Xenical can lend you a hand in shedding extra body fat.

Are diet pills safe?

All OTC diet pills are not FDA regulated. Different people can react differently to the ingredients in these medications, and some have serious side effects that require medical attention. You should take these medications with caution because of the potential adverse reactions. The FDA closely monitors prescription weight-loss drugs. However, they can have harmful side effects.

What is phentermine?

Phentermine (Phen-TER-meen) is a prescription medication approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for short-term use (a few weeks) as an aid in weight loss when used along with proper diet and exercise. It should only be prescribed by your doctor if you have risk factors that can lead to serious health problems and you have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise alone.

What are the benefits of using a weight loss pill?

Some prescription medications, such as phentermine and Xenical, have been found to help people shed body mass when used for a short period (a few weeks). Other prescription medications may be prescribed along with lifestyle changes to gain more benefit from these changes. Moreover, they can also help keep off the lost weight.

How effective are these medications?

Many factors affect how much weight someone will lose while taking any kind of diet pill. The amount someone loses depends on how much he or she weighs and the type of pill they are taking. The FDA has not approved any prescription weight-loss drug for long-term use (longer than 12 weeks). Most prescription medications have only been found to be effective over short periods (a few weeks).

Is Phentermine safe?

Phentermine can cause certain side effects such as-

  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Jitteriness

In addition, long-term use of this weight loss pill may lead to-

  • Mood disturbances
  • Psychosis
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Cardiac abnormalities
  • Blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Stroke
  • Seizure

The physical dependence on the medication may develop after just a few weeks of use. People with heart conditions or who are taking certain other medications should not take phentermine.

Is there any scientific basis for phentermine?

There is some scientific evidence for phentermine. However, not all of the studies have been well-designed.

In one study, participants were given either phentermine or a placebo (inactive pill) and asked to record what they ate over the day. All of the participants also went on low-calorie diets to lose weight. The results showed that the group taking phentermine reduced their energy intake, and it appeared to be safe.

A review of two studies with a total of 200 obese people found that those who took weight loss medications such as phentermine had about the same weight loss after three months as those given placebo pills. However, the study did not compare the medications to how well people would do if they just followed a healthy diet and increased their activity. Therefore, it is not known whether this weight loss pill provides any benefit beyond lifestyle changes alone.

Moreover, the effects of phentermine on weight loss may be short-lived unless combined with exercise and reduced caloric intake. You should take it in appropriate doses and not in combination with other medications.

Phentermine is classified as a controlled substance and has been associated with psychological dependence, misuse, and abuse when used for non-approved purposes or when users do not follow appropriate prescribing instructions.

What is Xenical?

Xenical (Orlistat) is a prescription medicine used to help obese people shed unnecessary body mass and maintain weight loss when used along with a low-calorie diet. The medication may help treat obesity by reducing the number of calories the body absorbs from fats in the diet (and sometimes by increasing the number of calories burned by the body).

How effective is this weight loss pill?

In clinical studies, Xenical helped people lose an average of 12.4 pounds (5.6 kg) more than those who didn’t take it. In addition to weight loss, participants taking Xenical showed improvements in blood pressure and the levels of several blood fats called triglycerides.

Is there any scientific basis for Xenical?

Yes, Xenical is FDA-approved for short-term use (up to 12 weeks) as an additional aid in weight loss, along with diet and exercise. However, only people who are obese (with a body mass index of 30 or higher) and have not lost weight on their own within the past year should use it. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use this drug.  Moreover, those with the following diseases should avoid the medicine-

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney stones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallstones
  • Liver problems
  • Constipation
  • Certain bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Eating disorders

What are the side effects of Orlistat?

The most common side effects of this weight loss pill are-

  • Gas with discharge
  • Loose stools
  • Oily stools
  • An enlarged abdomen
  • Loss of appetite

Are there any severe side effects of Xenical?

Serious side effects of Xenical that require immediate medical attention include-

  • Allergic reactions (difficulty breathing; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat)
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pain or tenderness lasting for several days in a row
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Vomiting blood

In addition, more severe side effects may occur in some patients taking Orlistat who have been exposed to it long term. There is some concern about a possible association between Xenical and a rare form of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma. There is no link found between this medicine and a specific type of heart valve abnormality, called Ebstein’s anomaly. However, the Orlistat results in causing cardiovascular side effects such as high blood pressure, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat.

 What are other ways to lose weight?

There are numerous ways to get rid of obesity. It is significant to note that losing weight takes determination and willpower. No weight loss pill, medication, or machine will do the work for you of eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity. Many of these products claim quick weight loss. However, this usually isn’t permanent. The best way to shed calories and keep it off is to adopt a healthier eating plan and an active lifestyle.

Below is a list of ways to lose weight without the use of medications-

  • Exercise regularly

It will help you burn calories and fat. Moreover, regular exercises improve mental health, which can increase your motivation towards weight loss.

  • Maintain a healthy diet

It includes eating lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean protein sources such as fish and chicken.

  • Avoid fad diets

These types of diets will not meet your nutritional needs over time. Moreover, they do not teach you how to make healthy eating choices. Fad diets can also cause a lack of crucial nutrients and lead to serious health problems.

  • Control portion sizes

If you eat large portions, you may take in more calories than your body needs. Instead, cut back on snacks and extra servings of foods that are high in fat or sugar. In addition to taking the weight loss pill, eating in small portions can bring effective results.

  • Reduce stress

Stress can contribute to weight gain. Therefore, learning relaxation skills or practicing yoga may help. Meditation, deep breathing, massage therapy, or acupuncture are also good options.

  • Take your time

Losing weight gradually is more sustainable than shedding it very quickly because you will be more likely to keep the weight off over time.

  • Be realistic

If you are already at a healthy weight for your height, losing just 5-10% of your body weight may lower your blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. It will ultimately lead to improved overall health.

  • Don’t smoke

Smoking is bad for your heart and lungs and is a risk factor for many forms of cancer. It can also increase your appetite, making it more difficult to eat a healthy diet and manage your weight.

  • Get enough sleep

Research suggests that not getting enough sleep can cause your body to produce more hormones that cause you to feel hungry, causing you to eat more and gain weight. Try going to bed an hour earlier than usual and see if this makes a difference. However, exercise can also help in improving the quality of your sleep.

  • Take a multi-vitamin daily

Taking a multi-vitamin can help you meet all your nutritional needs and decrease the risk of certain chronic diseases. However, if you are using any weight loss pill, consult your doctor about its usage with multi-vitamin tablets.

  • Don’t drink too much alcohol

Drinking more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.

  • Drink water

Drinking plenty of water every day can help prevent kidney stones, decrease your risk for urinary tract infections, improve your skin, and help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism.

  • Try not to skip meals

If you don’t eat regularly, your body will have a harder time controlling your appetite and blood sugar. Instead of skipping meals, try having some fruit or low-fat yogurt before you leave the house in the morning to help regulate your appetite.

  • Try to eat more vegetables

Vegetables are low in calories and fat but high in fiber, which can help you feel full for longer.  Moreover, eating healthy vegetables can help support the work of the weight loss pill.

  • Add more fiber to your diet

Eating foods high in fiber can make you feel full because it takes your body longer to digest them. Be sure to drink plenty of water when increasing the amount of fiber you eat so that you don’t become constipated or have stomach discomfort. In addition, you should also try to get at least 25 grams of fiber per day.

  • Don’t be afraid of fats

Some fats are good for you, including unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts, and fish. You should avoid trans-fats, which are found in processed foods. They contain partially hydrogenated oils or shortening.

  • Avoid sugary drinks

Many people consume hundreds of extra calories each day from sugary drinks like sodas, fruit punch, sweet tea, sports drinks, and energy drinks. However, taking water, unsweetened iced tea, or seltzer water and avoiding sugary foods and drinks can help support the function of your weight loss pill.

  • Keep your sight away from the TV during meals

This practice can make you eat more because it encourages mindless eating. Instead, try eating at the table without any distractions so that you are more aware of how much food you are consuming.

  • Practice mindful eating

This practice involves being aware of what you are doing and choosing weight loss-friendly foods rather than the food that can cause you weight gain. Moreover, mindful eating can help you feel satisfied with your portion sizes so that you aren’t tempted to overeat.

  • Change your mindset

Instead of thinking about dieting, shift the way you think about healthy eating habits. Do not restrict yourself from enjoying certain foods. Try to focus on why those foods are good for you and how they can help your body stay healthy.

These tips can really help shed unnecessary body fat. However, you should also stay in touch with your healthcare provider during your journey. Tell him or her if you experience any side effects while using the weight loss pill.   

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