While it sure would be nice and easy to pop a pill to lose weight, most diet pills that promise to melt fat and speed up your metabolism lead to only temporary losses and come with potential harmful side effects. If you're thinking about diet pills to help you lose the weight, talk to your doctor first to discuss pros and cons.
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Metabolism Boosters in Diet Pills
Ephedrine, guarana and yerba mate are metabolism boosters found in over-the-counter diet pills. They work as central nervous system stimulants, which provide a boost in energy and concentration. According to a 2003 study published in JAMA, ephedrine and caffeine-containing herbs, such as guarana and yerba mate, promote a small amount of short-term weight loss. A 2005 study published in Obesity Research reports an association between caffeine intake and weight loss. According to the authors of the study, caffeine may help promote weight loss through thermogenesis and fat burning, and it may help prevent some of the reduction in metabolism women experience when reducing their calorie intake for weight loss. These results don't promote taking in high amounts of caffeine, however, as the study used an amount comparable to what's found in a cup of strong, brewed coffee.
Safety Concerns for Metabolism Boosters
The central nervous system stimulants may help you lose some weight, but they may also cause health problems. JAMA warns that diet pills that contain ephedrine and caffeine may cause heart palpitations and gastrointestinal disturbances. There's also concern that this combo may lead to psychiatric and nervous system issues such as nervousness, tremors or seizures. Ephedrine, guarana and yerba mate may increase blood pressure as well. When taken in large quantities, yerba mate may increase your risk of certain types of cancer such as oral, kidney and bladder cancer. Additionally, guarana interacts with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin and may further decrease your body's ability to clot blood.
It's also important to note that the Food and Drug Administration has warned against the use of products containing CNS stimulants for weight loss. The FDA says that these products do not undergo the same type of testing and scrutiny as prescription medication, and it is up to the manufacturer to provide data on efficacy and safety. The FDA recommends dieting and exercise as a safe and effective way to lose weight.
You should not take diet pills if you're pregnant or nursing. Also, if you're taking medications, talk to your doctor to discuss potential interactions.
Other Diet Pill Ingredients
Over-the-counter diet pills may also contain other ingredients that purportedly help you lose weight by increasing water loss through diuresis or helping to control appetite. Like the metabolism boosters, however, there are health concerns with these types of supplements. Guar gum and glucomannan, for example, both help control appetite but may cause intestinal blockages or interfere with glucose control in people with diabetes. Additionally, herbal diuretics generally do not help you lose that much weight and may interfere with medications such as digoxin or prescription diuretic. One herbal diuretic, dandelion, may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to ragweed.
Safer Ways for Women to Speed Up Metabolism
Instead of relying on pills to get your metabolism going, start exercising. Muscle is one of the biggest contributors to your metabolic rate because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Add muscle, improve your physique and increase your metabolism with strength-training exercises two or three days a week. Good activities include yoga, lifting free weights or body-weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and lunges. A little cardio can give your metabolism a boost, too. Take a brisk 30-minute walk to burn 120 to 220 calories depending on how much you weigh.