What do diet pills do? Do they work?

Regularly, new “miracle” diet pills are being introduced on the market. What do you think? The question arises when you see how some of them work…

How do diet pills work?

They work at different levels depending on their active ingredients. Some aim to reduce the absorption of fat by the intestine (the portion of fat not absorbed is then eliminated naturally in the stool), others have more of a draining function: their aim is then to eliminate the fat already stored by the body. Several diet pills also play a role in appetite: they more or less effectively suppress it or allow you to reach a feeling of satiety more quickly when you eat. There are also pills that promise to increase the body’s energy expenditure to burn calories more easily. Note that the same pill can have several of these effects.

What are the side effects?

The active ingredients used in diet pills are rarely harmless. They can have very serious side effects. The proof: many of them are banned from sale a few years after they are put on the market. One thinks in particular of the old pills based on thyroid extracts which increased energy expenditure, but could also cause heart problems… Some appetite suppressants based on amphetamine derivatives, such as the infamous Mediator, have also taken their toll: depression, pulmonary arterial hypertension, cardiovascular problems… A bit of a shame when there are natural appetite suppressants. As for the Alli pill, which was much talked about when it came out in 2009 (it limited the absorption of fats by the intestine), it is no longer marketed in France. The ANSM (Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament et des Produits de Santé) had been keeping an eye on it for some time, fearing that it could cause serious liver damage in some people. That being said, its “minor” side effects were already making its use very difficult (e.g. faecal incontinence, flatulence, severe diarrhoea).

Are they effective for losing weight at least?

The effectiveness of weight loss pills available without a prescription is often very limited or even almost non-existent. In addition, the few kilos that may be lost tend to return very quickly after the “treatment” is stopped, unless you make in-depth changes to your lifestyle (e.g. do more sport, eat more balanced meals). It should be noted, however, that some pills may be more effective, such as Xenical (which uses orlistat, the same active substance as the Alli pill, but at an even higher dosage). However, this pill is only sold on prescription to people suffering from obesity. Moreover, it must be taken under strict medical supervision.

So, what about diet pills?

Trying a diet pill may sound very tempting, but it’s usually not worth the risk. Even with the newest pills on the market, it’s advisable to be very cautious: it often takes several years of use before all their side effects are listed. In the longer term, a truly effective and safe weight-loss pill may eventually be created, but in the meantime, it’s wiser to use other methods such as a Zen weight-loss diet, for example. However, there is no secret to regaining and maintaining a healthy figure: you need to eat a balanced diet, including limiting foods high in fat and sugar, and take regular exercise. In the absence of medical contraindications, any sport can do the trick as long as it provides you with a sense of well-being.
Roby Miller

Roby Miller

Hello ! I am Roby Miller, slimming coach, nutritionist, psychologist (diet specialist), author and consultant in nutrition and orthomolecular supplements.
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