What Diet Aid Really Works?

by Stephanie Mojica

Not all diet pills are safe or effective, but several types are considered the best on the market, according to the Mayo Clinic. Before taking an over-the-counter (OTC) medication or asking your doctor for a prescription diet aid, be sure to learn all the facts about diet drugs including possible side effects. Remember, also, that no pill is a magic cure for weight problems nor can it substitute for poor exercise or eating habits.

Warning

Some diet pills are addictive, especially those marketed as "natural" Brazilian diet pills, according to Medline Plus. Also, phentermine is an effective diet pill prescribed throughout the world, but it also may be habit-forming, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can reduce your chances of forming a diet pill addiction by taking your medications only as directed and for the medically recommended period of time.

Types

Meridia and phentermine are prescription weight-loss drugs that help reduce appetite by altering the chemicals in your brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Orlistat is a fat blocker that helps you digest less fat than you would without the drug. As of 2010, orlistat was available in a prescription-strength labeled Xenical or OTC in a reduced-formula, marketed as Alli.

Significance

Meridia and Xenical are the most-effective diet drugs out there, according to the Mayo Clinic. Moms who take one of these prescription drugs could reasonably expect to lose an additional 6 to 11 lbs. each year. Alli is also effective, but less so. It usually leads to an additional weight loss of only 3 lbs. per year in addition to the about 8 lbs. typically lost through exercise and diet alone.

Considerations

Even the best diet pills carry the risk of side effects, according to the Mayo Clinic and MedlinePlus. Phentermine can cause a dry mouth, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting; sometimes it can also lead to potentially serious symptoms, such as dizziness and chest pain. Orlistat users run the risk of having uncontrollable bowel movements or oil spotting onto their clothing. Also, as of 2010 the FDA was investigating allegations that Alli caused liver injury in some users.

Time Frame

Meridia, Xenical and Alli don't have a limited time frame in which dieters can safely take the drug, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, keep in mind that some diet drugs become less effective over time. Phentermine should only be used for 3 to 6 weeks at a time due to its amphetamine-like properties and addiction potential, according to MedlinePlus. Always check with your doctor before using any diet program long-term.

About the Author

Stephanie Mojica has been a journalist since 1997 and currently works as a full-time reporter at the daily newspaper "The Advocate-Messenger" in Kentucky. Her articles have also appeared in newspapers such as "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "The Virginian-Pilot," as well as several online publications. She holds a bachelor's degree from Athabasca University.

Photo Credits

  • measuring tape image by Christopher Walker from Fotolia.com