It is clear that Americans have a weight problem. Doctors and scientists are constantly appearing on television, in newspapers, in magazines and on the internet warning everyday American citizens that the obesity epidemic is on the rise and that if we do not start eating a healthier diet, exercising more, and living less sedentary lives, then we are surely at risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and an early death.
But what is an American to do? Many overweight Americans claim that they are so busy working behind their desks at jobs that require them to sit and remain sedentary that they do not have time to exercise or prepare healthy, balanced meals. These Americans search for a shortcut when it comes to the weight loss process. These short cuts can include fad diets, gastric bypass surgery and even crazy home remedies, but one of the most enduring symbols of Americans struggle with weight loss has been the diet pill. Quick weight loss, which is what diet pills are known for, is unstable and unmanageable. Some may have a different opinion on that and the choice is totally up to the consumer’s discretion, but as a nutrition nut, I for one can say that losing weight with a pill is taking the easy way out. If you want weight loss to stick, take the time and do it right.
Weight loss pills are manufactured in three classifications: 1) Over-The-Counter (OTC), 2) Regulated, and 3) Herbal. Weight loss pills that are classified as OTC may be purchased simply “over the counter” without need of a doctor’s prescription. They do not contain enough volume of chemicals that can be potentially harmful. Regulated weight loss pills require the presentation of a doctor’s prescription. This type of weight loss pill has chemicals in it with potency or strength that can trigger a dangerous reaction from the body or may have toxic interaction with the chemicals of other medicines that may be taken along with it. A doctor must monitor those who take regulated weight loss pills during the period of their regimen. Weight loss drugs, notwithstanding their components and nature, require the testing and approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be released in the market. Examples of slimming pills that are already in the market are Xenical and Meridia.
A weight loss pill can be a diet pill, a fat blocking pill or basically a diuretic. A diet pill helps in preventing the piling up of excess fat due to overeating. It does this by suppressing the appetite. That means it introduces chemicals into the body that affects the way a particular organ, found in the brain, works. That organ is called the hypothalamus. It is the organ that, among its many other functions, controls the appetite to eat. A fat blocking pill, on the other hand, helps prevent the storing of excess fat in the body. It does this by inhibiting the production of a certain enzyme, called Lipase, which normally breaks down fat as it is digested along with food in the digestive system for absorption and storage purposes in different parts of the body. Fat that was not absorbed for storage is passed to the bowels and excreted. A diuretic prevents the body from retaining too much fluid which bloats body tissues and adds to the body’s total mass. It does this by stimulating the kidneys and the bladder to produce and pass urine.
Diet pills that have herbal origin or components are currently fast gaining favor in the market, fueled by the widely held idea that unlike its synthesized counterparts they do not have potentially harmful chemicals in them. A herbal diet pill usually contains malted grain syrup, molasses and honey. Some of the most popular components that are added are the Guarana, Dandelion, Aloe, Pyruvate, and Hydroxtryptophan. These components are reportedly well tolerated by the body and do not trigger allergic reactions when the herbal pills are taken in correct dosage. Herbal diet pills are available in drug stores and health shops. They are usually distinguished from the non-herbal pills by a mark that says “All Natural”. Herbal weight loss pills are not classified as drugs. They usually do not contain any synthesized components that can be potentially harmful.
Other ingredients contained in many weight loss products that you may or may not be familiar with may include chitosan, bitter orange, chromium, conjugate linoleic acid (CLA), green tea extract, and guar gum, etc. Chitosan works by blocking the absorption of fat. Bitter orange extract works by increasing the number of calories burned in a day. Chromium works by also increasing the number of calories burned; in addition, it suppresses the appetite. CLA works by reducing the amount of body fat and replacing it with built muscle. Green tea extract works by increasing the metabolism and decreasing the appetite. Guar gum works by blocking the absorption of dietary fat and it helps you to feel fuller quicker. It is probably safe but not yet proven effective.
Some weight loss pills contain caffeine, ephedra, aspirin and other stimulants to get your heart beating quicker and to speed up your metabolism. The problem with using a fat burning pill containing a stimulant, such as caffeine or ephedra, is that you are most likely to experience ups and downs on the product. Your energy level can be high one minute and then you feel like crashing the next. Often people find that their moods are affected by the stimulants as well. They go from a great, hyper and productive mood to a depressed, grumpy and exhausted mood. Your body can only take so many stimulants before it needs to rest. Unfortunately, the times in which you want to sleep, your body probably will not rest and instead you will be wired at night and then find yourself falling asleep at the worst times during the day. Stimulants can screw up your body’s natural cycle.
Other downfalls of taking a weight loss pill that includes a stimulant such as caffeine or ephedra are the increased risk of developing the “jitters”, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and other heart problems. The worst part of using fat burning stimulants is that if they help you lose weight, you probably will have to take them the rest of your life to keep the weight off. So many people have reported that once the have gone off the pills, the weight started creeping back on. That is because relying on a fat burning pill to burn your calories instead of adjusting your diet and exercise routine to weight loss mode is the wrong way to stay fit and lean long term.
Not every pill works the same and they are not all considered safe. Choosing the right weight loss pill for you can be tricky if you do not know what you are looking for. A seemingly endless variety of weight loss pills is available to the interested consumer, but whether or not these pills are safe is completely up in the air. “Best” in the weight loss industry is subject to opinion because dietary supplements and weight loss aids are not, I repeat are not, strictly regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers can put more or less in the product than is listed on the ingredient label. However, once the product is out, the FDA has the capability of taking it off the market if serious side-effects are reported. Sometimes diarrhea isn’t considered a “serious” side effect, so that’s just a chance one must be willing to take. Is it really worth having diarrhea all day?
If you decide to try a weight loss pill, you should skip the ones that have stimulants and opt for all natural products that contain more herbal ingredients. A lot of herbs are good for suppressing the appetite which will help you lessen your calorie intake. Keep in mind that even if you take the pills and have success, your body is still going to need fewer calories to maintain your new weight, and losing weight on a pill most of the time requires some caloric deficit. Taking these pills for the rest of your life is not very realistic, nor is it healthy. For those that do want to try a weight loss pill, it is best to consult your doctor to be evaluated and get the medical go ahead. Your doctor will be able to inform you about what would be safe for you and your weight loss goals.