Alli and Hydroxycut are dietary supplements that are popular in the United States and Europe. Each supplement acts on the body differently and comes with its own set of effects and side-effects. Alli is the first over-the-counter weight-loss drug approved for public consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Alli, an over-the-counter form of the drug orlistat, works by blocking the body’s ability to absorb some of the fat from the food a person eats. The fat passes through the body and is disposed of through the intestinal tract. Hydroxycut contains a number of chemical extracts, including caffeine and Garcinia cambogia, which act as an appetite suppressant to prevent users from overeating. Hydroxycut originally contained the drug ephedra before the FDA banned its use in dietary supplements in 2004.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the prescription-strength form of Alli--Xenical--has been shown to yield an average of 5 to 7 lbs. of weight loss more in a year than diet and exercise alone. The Mayo Clinic concludes that Alli, which is half the strength of Xenical, can yield roughly 3 to 5 lbs. of additional weight loss on an annual basis. Hydroxycut packaging boasts that its advanced formula has been shown in one study to be four times as effective as a placebo during a 10-week period.
Don't take Alli if your body has trouble absorbing nutrients or you have gallbladder problems. The most common side effect of Alli is oily or fatty stools and excessive flatulence, though cold symptoms and vomiting have also occurred. Hydroxycut has listed side effects of tremors, restlessness, headaches, anxiety, increased heart rate and difficulty sleeping.
Hydroxycut underwent a major recall in May 2009 after the FDA received 23 reports of serious liver injuries linked to the supplement, including one death. One person required a liver transplant after taking the recommended dosage of Hydroxycut. The company subsequently recalled 14 of its products and later released a “new advanced formula” onto the market. Alli has never been recalled, but the FDA did receive reports in 2009 of liver damage related to orlistat and was still reviewing the drug as of August 2010.
Whereas Alli has been shown to have mild weight-loss benefits when compared to diet and exercise alone, the efficacy of Hydroxycut and similar weight-loss supplements has been called into question. A 2003 The New York Times article, titled "Studies of Dietary Supplements Come Under Growing Scrutiny," found that studies carried out on Hydroxycut showed the drug “can't be claimed as superior to the placebo.” The article went on to claim that these results were ignored and “buried” by Hydroxycut in their marketing.