Fast weight loss methods can be ineffective because they don't get to the root of your weight problem. However, taking diet pills may be an effective part of a well-rounded weight loss plan if you are in a constant battle with the excess pounds, according to MayoClinic.com. No one type of weight loss pill is the most effective in all cases, but some types are generally considered safer and more effective than others.
No matter how effective a diet pill is in helping to lose weight quickly, you may not be the right candidate for it. Generally, your doctor won't prescribe a pill for you unless your body mass index puts you in the "obese" category or if your body mass index is in the "overweight" range and you have a serious weight-related medical problem, such as high blood pressure, according to the Weight-control Information Network. Your doctor may also rule out diet pills as an option if he thinks they would interact negatively with a medication you're taking or with a medical condition you already have.
Most weight loss pills deemed effective and safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, are by prescription only. These fall into two categories: pills that suppress your appetite and pills that help your body absorb less fat. Phentermine and phendimetrazine are two examples of appetite suppressants and orlistat is an example of a popular lipase inhibitor. In 2007, the first nonprescription weight loss pill to be approved by the FDA was Alli, which contained a weaker dose of the fat blocker orlistat.
Prescription diet pills can cause you to lose about 5 to 10 percent of your body weight within one year as long as you continue make other healthy lifestyle changes, according to MayoClinic.com. These benefits can be enough to significantly reduce health risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. However, you may not see dramatic results because different bodies respond in different ways to weight-loss pills.
Not a Cure
Diet pills aren't a magical cure-all for weight woes, but they may boost the results you get from eating well and exercising often. They can also help you maintain a healthy weight once you reach it, but you may remain in a consistent battle to keep your weight off, warns MayoClinic.com. You can expect to see the peak weight loss within about six months of taking the medication and then see your weight level off or go up later.
You and your doctor will also have to weigh the potential benefits of taking a diet pill with the potential risks. Some FDA-approved medications end up being stripped from the market once follow-up research shows that people taking pills have experienced serious side effects. For instance, the weight loss drug sibutramine was removed after being linked to strokes and heart attacks. As of 2011, the lipase inhibitor orlistat was under scrutiny after reports of serious liver injury emerged in some patients taking it.
Warning About Over-the-Counter Pills
Other than nonprescription orlistat, no over-the-counter diet pill is FDA-approved to aid in weight loss. These pills -- even the ones labeled "herbal" and "natural" -- may also be dangerous because they aren't subjected to the same controls and standards as prescription medications. To reduce your risk of negative reactions, talk to your doctor first if you're thinking of trying an over-the-counter pill.
- MayoClinic.com: Over-the-Counter Weight Loss Pills: Do They Work?
- MayoClinic.com: Weight-Loss Drugs: Can a Prescription Help You Lose Weight?
- Weight-control Information Network: Prescription Medication for the Treatment of Obesity
- CBS News: First Over-the-Counter Diet Pill Gets OK; Scott Conroy; Feb. 7, 2007
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Overview of Dietary Supplements