People who carry extra pounds around the belly are often open to whatever strategy might help them lose that extra fat. While most people would gladly shed any fat they can, belly fat is particularly dangerous. Belly fat heightens your risk for many health conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure and gallbladder problems. Belly fat wraps around and tucks between your organ systems within your abdomen, where it releases fatty acids and hormones that adversely affect critical organs, including your liver. Over-the-counter diet pills are available online, at drug stores and at health food stores, but only a select few have been demonstrated by third-party research to help you lose weight and burn belly fat.
The Skinny on Belly Fat Pills
Before you start taking over the counter pills with dreams of melting away that belly fat, take a deep breath of reality. There are no pills, no diets and no exercises that specifically target belly fat. When you lose weight, by whatever means, the weight is lost proportionally from wherever it happens to be stored on your body. If you carry much of your extra weight in your belly, then as you lose weight, you will lose more proportionally from your belly. If you carry extra weight in your hips, thighs and butt, then you will lose weight from those areas. As you lose weight, you lose subcutaneous fat, the fat directly under your skin, as well as visceral, or so-called belly fat. So, any pill that helps you lose weight will help you lose belly fat, as well as the other fat that is distributed around your body.
Many over-the-counter pills and supplements claim they help you lose weight, burn fat or shrink your belly. Manufacturers and vendors claim that these pills assist with weight loss by blocking or reducing the absorption of fat, decreasing appetite, building muscles, increasing calories burned or some combination of these mechanisms.
Prescription medications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and claims about their effects must be substantiated by third-party research. Further, side effects of prescription medications must be carefully studied and documented. Dietary supplements, however, are not regulated by the FDA, so their primary effects and side effects are usually not as well substantiated. Weight and fat loss pills are not required to go through a rigorous evaluation process before they are put on the market, according to MayoClinic.com. As a result, there is inadequate reliable evidence to document the effectiveness of most of the diet and fat-burning pills on the market. Pills that require more research, according to MayoClinic.com, include green tea extract, hoodia, bitter orange, chromium, chitosan and country mallow.
Three pills have been documented to effective by third-party reseach: Alli, conjugated lineoleic acid, or CLA, and ephedra. Although ephedra is possibly effective, it has been taken off the market by the FDA due to safety issues, including stroke, arrhythmia and death.
Initial research by the "International Journal of Obesity" indicates that CLA can reduce abdominal fat, and CLA is rated by MayoClinic.com to possibly be safe, meaning that significant health issues have not yet been identified.
A third pill, Alli, may be the best choice. Alli is a reduced strength, over-the-counter version of a prescription drug, orlistat, that has gone through the extensive testing and evaluation process required by the FDA. The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, reportedly chose the name "alli" because the drug should be allied with a weight-loss program that includes healthy eating and exercise. For every five pounds lost through exercise and diet, orlistat adds an average of a pound to two, according to CBS News. Alli is safe for most people, but some questions have been raised linking it to liver injuries in some people.
Speak with your doctor before you begin taking any diet pill. The long term effect and safety of Alli and other diet pills has not yet been established. Diet pills do not replace exercise and healthy diet as the most effective way to lose belly fat, and they will not compensate for a calorie-rich, sedentary lifestyle.
- CBS News: First Over-The-Counter Diet Pill Gets OK
- Food and Drug Administration: Dietary Supplements
- International Journal of Obesity: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Reduced Abdominal Adipose Tissue
- MayoClinic: Over-the-counter Weight Loss Pills: Do They Work?
- National Institutes of Health: Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ephedra