Can Diet Pills Really Help You Lose Weight?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

At any given time there are at least two dozen ‘lose weight quick’ schemes on the market today. Many quick weight loss schemes involve the use of diet pills, whether over-the-counter or prescription. While most people realize that a sensible diet and enough exercise are the key ingredients to a successful weight loss program, most people at least occasionally search for a means to lose weight more quickly and easily. Diet pills offer just such a promise. Lose weight quickly without the hassle. But are they safe and do they work?

You may be tempted during your weight loss endeavors to use diet pills to speed up the weight loss process. Diet pills and supplements now flood the marketplace, promising everything from fame to fortune. Famous celebrities now tout the benefits of one diet pill or another. You should be aware however that most diet pills, even those that claim to be ‘natural’ may pose some risk to your health and well-being. The more aware you are of these risks, the better-off you and your body are in the long-term.

Dangers Of Diet Pills
There are different kinds of diet pills. You can get prescription diet pills or over-the-counter diet aids usually. Many people think that prescription diet pills are safer than OTC varieties because the FDA regulates them. Common prescription diet pills include Xenical, Adipex, Phentermine and Merdia. It is important you understand that most of these prescription pills are intended for people who are suffering from morbid obesity. Most people do not fall into this category. These prescriptions shouldn’t replace a sensible diet and exercise plan either. Rather, they may help jump start a weight loss and fitness program for obese patients.

Over-the-counter varieties are less regulated and as a result, more dangerous. Some over-the-counter diet pills contain ingredients that act like amphetamines. This means they raise your risk for heart problems, anxiety and even serious side effects like death. You have undoubtedly heard by now at least one news report of someone dying resulting from the side effects of using a diet product laced with ephedrine (a stimulant). Common side effects of diet pills may include:
  • Dizziness

  • Tremor

  • Diarrhea

  • Racing heartbeat

  • Higher blood pressure

  • Heart failure

  • Nervousness

  • Insomnia


Prescription diet pills are not without side effects either. Some may also result in chest pain, depression, heart problems or higher blood pressure. Diarrhea and ‘unexpected fecal discharge’ are common side effects with Xenical. Now that sounds nasty doesn’t it?

Can I Use Diet Pills Safely?
The answer is… maybe. It is important you discuss with your doctor your plans to lose weight. Your doctor may or may not recommend a prescription diet pill depending on your current health. When taken with appropriate supervision, prescriptions diet pills may occasionally, when combined with a diet and exercise regimen, aid weight loss. The use of prescription diet pills in these cases will likely be short-term.

If you plan to use over-the-counter diet pills you should be aware of the risks. A much better approach to weight loss includes a proper diet and continuous exercise. Strength training can also help boost your metabolism to stimulate weight loss. It is still a good idea to check in with your doctor if you plan to try over-the-counter diet pills. Make sure you don’t have any risk factors that may put you at even more risk if you do take them.

If despite all the cautions listed above you decide to throw caution to the wind, be sure you follow the directions on the package carefully. Try to avoid products with artificial stimulants like ephedrine that can cause serious side effects. If you do notice any troubling side effects you should stop use of any diet pills immediately. Remember most pills are intended for short, not long-term use.

Studies suggest Americans spend more than 6 billion dollars every year on diet pills alone. A far better investment may be on a nutritionist or personal trainer to help work with you to develop a satisfactory diet and exercise program. Remember when it comes to weight loss, as frustrating as it may seem, slow and steady really does win the race. You are much more likely to enjoy the long-term benefits of steady weight loss if you approach it sensibly and carefully. If you still have questions about diet pills, be sure to contact your doctor so together you can discuss your individual health care needs. Wishing you the best on your journey…