Weight loss pills are chemical or herbal compositions that are available in the market today. As per their claim, when ingested, they aid in the loss of weight in the body. All these pills, however, are not freely available - they can either be procured on prescription from a medical practitioner/health professional, over the counter (OTC) or as herbal remedies which are widely available in the market. The first two categories are closely monitored by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (or FDA as it is popularly known); while herbal remedies, by virtue of falling into the category of 'food' are not so carefully regulated by the FDA.
If you're evaluating the decision to take weight loss pills, here is some information that can empower you to make a wiser decision. In general, these pills are recommended when traditional weight loss techniques like a balanced diet and exercise have failed or are not showing the desired results. Or, you might turn to weight loss pills to supplement your existing diet and exercise routine to lose weight. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that these pills are the external chemicals that are being ingested by the body. The standard risk of side effects (in the short or long term) remains. Even if you're opting for 'herbal weight loss pills', they still are foods that are not regularly consumed by the body, and hence are risky.
Weight loss is a function of reduction in total body weight. It generally takes place when you burn more calories than you ingest (other methods include invasive surgery, etc.). When you lose weight, your body is losing fat, muscle or bone mass. 'Diet pills' work in any one or in a combination of the following ways to result in:
(i) they suppress or decrease appetite; the brain is triggered to convey a sense of satiety to the body
(ii) they block fat - these pills prevent or reduce the absorption of fat in the body
(iii) they burn fat,
(iv) they cause an increase in the number of calories burned by the body or
(v) they build muscle by converting fat.
If you're trying to evaluate a weight loss pill, you may consider the following criteria and ask your doctor/health professional these pertinent questions:
(i) do you really need to take the pill to lose weight? Are there other, more natural methods you can adopt?
(ii) How does the pill work? What is the biological process taking place in your body when you take the pill?
(iii) How safe is it? What are the possible short/long term side-effects?
(iv) How effective is the pill? What are the benefits of taking the pills? How long will it take to show results?
(v) What is the experience of other users?
Some of the common prescription and OTC weight loss pills you'll hear of in the market today are Proactol, Xenical (or Orlistat), Xenedrine, Phentermine and Meridia, among others. Although the popularity of such pills has surged in the recent years owing to their promise of 'easy and effortless weight loss', it is always better to err on the side of caution before taking them.