Four Things You Should Know Before Taking Diet Pills
Just Take a Pill
Big Pharma wants us all to think that there is a pill for every condition. Can’t fall asleep? Take a pill. Can’t wake up? Take a pill. Can’t poop? Take a pill. I could go on, but I think you see the pattern. We in the USA have been led to believe that all of our medical issues can be solved easily with some sort of medicine. With that in mind, and given that around 25% of all Americans are currently on a diet and over half of us are overweight, it’s not surprising that there are dozens of prescription medications and OTC supplements currently being marketed for weight loss. And yes, I’m including so-call “healthy” herbal supplements in the mix, since even those can often cause more harm than good.
Of course, if you have a bona fide medical issue, like problems with your thyroid gland, then, by all means, seek out appropriate medical attention. Now that we have that out of the way, here are the four things you need to know about diet pills before you take them.
1. How They Work
Diet pills are not magic. They have specific effects on your body that you should know about if you plan to take them. So let’s start with a discussion of the three primary mechanisms at work with these diet aids. They can:
- Suppress appetite, e.g., ephedra, hoodia, or country mallow (so you don’t feel hungry)
- Increase metabolism, e.g., bitter orange, chromium, green tea extract (so you burn off more calories)
- Block fat absorption, e.g., Alli, chitosan, guar gum (so you don’t absorb some of the fat you eat)
Think about that for a moment. All three of these things cause your body to do something (or not do something) it would naturally do. So you are basically tinkering with your body’s natural “operating system” in a manner of speaking. And just like a computer, if you change a setting in one area, it’s likely to trigger changes in other areas as well. Unfortunately, not all of those changes will be safe or best for your overall health in the long run. So while you might increase your sense of fullness, boost your metabolism, or block some of your fat consumption, you do so at the risk of several serious and harmful side effects. More on those in a moment.
2. How They Are Regulated
There are a few other things you should know about diet pills. For example, dietary supplements don’t require FDA approval, which means that potentially unsafe ingredients may be sold to the public. The lax regulation of dietary supplements has permitted prescription level drugs to find their way into these pills. This is bad news if you have an underlying cardiovascular or other poor health condition. You might find out the hard way how serious the complications can be.
3. Potential Side Effects
Okay, so let’s delve into those side effects. Some of the pills are actually stimulants that have been found to increase your risk for hypertension, breathing problems, palpitations, stroke, or heart attack. Some pills contain amphetamines, which are highly addictive. Others contain fat blockers that interfere with your nutrient absorption (e.g., you can become deficient in vitamins A and D) and can cause stomach problems, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and mood swings.
Finally, some pills are simply diuretics (water pills) that cause water loss and may lead to severe dehydration. The kicker with this final side effect is that the lower weight you may experience could just be water weight that will return, leaving you with no true loss except in your wallet.
4. Lack of Sustainability
Taking pills may help you drop some pounds in the short run, but you can’t keep taking them forever. Once you stop, you’ll likely return to your former weight, since you probably learned nothing new about your eating habits and exercise patterns. Unless or until you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you are not likely to sustain a permanent weight loss and maintain your ideal weight.
One Final Thought
I’m not saying that all diet supplements are harmful. If they are used appropriately, and in combination with modifications to your diet and increased activity levels, then they can speed up your desired weight loss. If that’s what you need to achieve your goal, then, by all means, look into that option. But do deep research on any product that you decide to put in your body, and of course, consult your personal physician. Don’t just look at the advertisements from the product vendors. Look them up on authoritative medical websites. As the old saying goes, “buyer beware.”