Eat whatever you want and take a pill after that … Poof! you will get slimmer by the week. Sounds too good to be true, right?
But this is the usual pitch dished out by companies selling weight-loss pills to the general public. The selling companies will also tell you that there are no side-effects since most of the ingredients are herbal extracts. So, why doesn’t everyone just gulp those pills with their upsize soda drink or right after a box-full of fried chicken and cheesy bites?
Because… most of this information is completely wrong and the marketing is based on half-truths. If there were such a magic pill, its ingredients would be included in all the fattening foods and sold off. As certified nutritionists and dietitians, we get a lot of queries from our patients about diet pills so we have piled together everything you need to know about the pills:
1. What kind of magic is this?!
Actually, there isn’t any magic inside. There are three types of pills; some reduce your appetite, others reduce absorption of fat into your body so fewer calories are consumed, the last ones increase your rate of fat burning.
2. How do I know which ones should I take?
You should not decide this on your own. Diet pills should be prescribed by a doctor or a dietitian after a careful analysis of your health. Most of the time, any diet pill prescription will accompany a suggestion of meals improvement as well as an increase in physical activity. Diet pills are usually prescribed if months of meals-based management and exercise don’t help reduce weight.
3. Are there any side-effects?
Yes! That is why consulting a doctor is necessary. Let’s look again at the three types of drugs:
- Most of the appetite reduction pills have a high quantity of fiber in one form or the other. These types are usually safe but then, anyone can have similar amount of fiber in their diet by having better meals-management
- The pills which reduce fat absorption tend to alter the digestion process and may lead to digestive system disorders
- Fat burning drugs increase the body’s energy burning process by using stimulants which result in an increase in heart-rate, high blood pressure and may lead to palpitation
Also, the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry concluded that use of diet medications was strongly associated with MDE (Major Depressive Episodes). The prevalence of depressive episodes among users of these drugs was four times higher as compared to the general population.
4. Some diet pills come with all-natural/herbal extracts, are there any side effects on that?
Yes, there are side-effects of even using herbal extracts. Many forms of stimulants and base chemicals are actually extracted from herbs. In short, ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ should not be equated to ‘beneficial’ or ‘harmless’. This is a myth a lot of advertising companies use.
5. Why are they still available then?
Most of these pills are branded as diet supplements which are not scrutinized as strictly as proper drugs for medical use. This is why the pills are marketed as supplements and touted to have no side-effects.
6. What is the solution?
Don’t use pills or powders unless prescribed by a certified dietitian. Focus on meals replacement; have a higher intake of fiber and cut down on deep-fried and sugary eatables. In parallel, try to include 20-30 minutes of workout in your daily routine. This will not only help with calorie-burning, it will also strengthen your body.