Finding the right "diet pill" to help you lose excess body fat isn't as easy the supplement manufacturers make it sound. Most weight-loss pills either don't work at all, don't work as well as claimed or have unpleasant or dangerous side effects. Always check with your doctor before adding any diet pill to your routine, especially if you have a medical condition or take prescription medications.
Some Fat Loss With Conjugated-Linoleic Acid
The friendly bacteria in your gut make conjugated-linoleic acid, or CLA, a naturally-occurring fatty acid found in beef and dairy products, especially those from grass-fed animals. CLA imbeds itself into your cell membranes and acts as an antioxidant against free radical damage. However, the CLA naturally found in food is not the same as that found in supplement form. The form in supplements is usually made from chemically changing vegetable oils to produce a different variation of the fatty acid.
CLA has been shown to reduce body fat and increase lean body mass in animals and has been investigated as possible a weight-loss supplement for people. The fatty acid may help you lose modest amounts of fat, according to a 2007 review of 18 human studies using CLA, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, results have been mixed and more research is needed.
Orlistat to Block the Fat
Although available over-the-counter in several brand name weight-loss aids, orlistat is considered a medication. This medicine helps you lose weight by blocking fat-digesting enzymes so you don't absorb all of the fat you eat. As a result, some dietary fat passes in your stool, so essentially, the medicine helps you lose weight by flushing fat calories down the toilet.
Though the weight-loss supplement may help you lose about 2 pounds a month for the first four months -- according to a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology -- it seems to lose its effect after that, and the weight usually comes back. Plus, orlistat comes with some unpleasant side effects, including abdominal pain, urgent diarrhea, foul-smelling bowel movements and the possibility of passing an oily discharge. And, you should only take the medication with meals containing fat. However, if you eat less fat while taking the drug, you may not experience these effects, and you'll also take in fewer calories.
Fat-Burning Herbal Caffeine Pills
Many herbal weight-loss pills contain stimulants from various herbal ingredients such as green tea, yerba mate and guarana. Yerba mate is a type of tea that contains a nervous system stimulant similar to caffeine, while guarana is a seed native to Brazil that contains caffeine.
Weight loss supplements containing green tea may help you lose some weight, but only small amounts, according to a 2012 review study published by Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Although caffeine does give you a boost of energy and may suppress your appetite a bit, it's not effective for weight loss, according to the Obesity Action Coalition.
Herb- and caffeine-combination diet pills may also be dangerous to your health. Excess caffeine from sources such as guarana can not only make you jittery and affect your sleep, but may also increase your heart rate -- and can be potentially fatal when ingested at high doses -- according to the OAC. Yerba mate may increase blood pressure and is linked to an increased risk of esophageal, lung and mouth cancer.
Diet and Exercise to Lose the Fat
Instead of turning to a pill to help you lose the fat, you'd be better off making smarter food choices and finding time to be more active. A pound of fat on your body contains 3,500 calories, which means you need to create a deficit to match that amount -- 500 calories a day over seven days -- to lose 1 pound (ref 10 section 1 para 2). Eating fewer calories, whether by cutting back on what you eat or replacing some of your food choices with lower-calorie options, and burning calories with planned exercise can help you manage your calories so you lose the fat in a healthy and safe way.
- Cleveland Clinic: OTC Weight Loss Pills and Herbal Supplements
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Efficacy of Conjugated Linoleic Acid for Reducing Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis in Humans
- British Journal of Pharmacology: The Effectiveness of Pharmaceutical Interventions for Obesity: Weight Loss With Orlistat and Sibutramine in a United Kingdom Population-Based Cohort
- Patient: Orlistat
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Conjugated Linoleic Acid
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Green Tea for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance in Overweight or Obese Adults
- Obesity: The Effect of Leptin, Caffeine/ephedrine, and Their Combination upon Visceral Fat Mass and Weight Loss
- Human and Experimental Toxicology: How Safe Is the Use of Herbal Weight-Loss Products Sold Over the Internet?
- Obesity Action Coalition: “Upper” Limits the Value of Caffeine in Weight-loss
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight