The diet pill industry is thriving. Americans are willing to try anything to get thin, no matter what it costs or how much effort is required. The search for the “miracle” drug has been an ongoing quest in America since the days of Prohibition and continues right through today. Even with all the scientific research and technology available in this modern age, we still lack a safe and effective way to lose weight.
The FDA estimates that 50 million people in America will spend $33 billion on weight-loss products this year alone…and yet obesity rates continue to climb each year. As such, there is a public interest in finding out the truth about weight-loss pills, but which ones work?
Why people would take weight-loss pills:
People likely want weight loss pills because they think they are convenient and practical solutions to their obesity problems. They may not have enough money or time for more traditional forms of exercise or dieting (e.g., yoga classes), nor do they want to count calories and measure their food.
These weight-loss pill companies claim that most people can lose weight without changing what they eat or how often they exercise.
What we know:
Scientific research has not borne out such claims. All of these diet products’ results are due either to the placebo effect (your belief that the product is working) or, at worst, too dangerous side effects.” Most weight loss pills fall into stimulants, thyroid hormones, and herbal preparations. Stimulants increase heart rate and blood pressure, so you breathe harder, and your heart beats faster – all to burn more calories. These drugs also boost brain activity, leading to anxiety, mood changes, and even heart attacks. The same goes for thyroid hormone drugs, and they are supposed to speed up your metabolism to burn more calories.
But the U.S. FDA has cited hundreds of reports of severe side effects among users of these products – including skin rash, rapid pulse, fever, shock, organ failure, and stroke. And finally, there are herbal preparations whose ingredients have not been tested in well-designed studies to determine if they work.
Are They Effective?
Yes. The caffeine in fat-burning supplements heats your body, so you burn more calories during exercise. It also helps ward off hunger — a double whammy for weight loss! A study from the journal Obesity found that people who took a supplement with caffeine lost significantly more weight than those who ingested a placebo.
Few Points That You Should Keep in Mind
Don’t fall for the “all-natural” marketing trick! A product can contain 100% natural ingredients and still be horrible for you (an excellent example of this would be some ephedrine products available many years ago). For these reasons, just because something is “natural” does not mean it’s healthy or recommended to use.
Supplements are mostly unregulated by the FDA. They are mainly regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is more concerned about false claims than they are about the safety of your supplements. There have been countless examples in which supplement companies have made false claims on their labels without any consequence. So buyer beware! The best thing you can do is research your supplements and find out what ingredients they contain, if their claims are valid if their labels violate any FDA regulations, etc.
Older people should avoid dietary supplements marketed to promote weight loss, arthritis relief, or improved digestion. According to an analysis published in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, most of these supplements do not work as promised.
Even more worrisome is that almost one-third have either dangerous or illegal ingredients. The FDA has received many reports of liver injury from over-the-counter drugs for weight loss and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (found in Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (also known by brand names such as Aleve). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) was also detected in some supplements.
“With few exceptions, we found little or no evidence to support the claims made by manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements,” says Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the study. “These products are often repurposed drugs with serious safety concerns.”
Even though most supplements do not live up to their claims, one in five users continues taking them for more than six months after being told there is no scientific evidence they work. Most of these people take supplements as part of a regimen for building muscle mass.
“The public should be skeptical about health claims for unregulated over-the-counter substances promoted on websites, in magazines, or through other media that are masquerading as dietary supplements,” Cohen says.
Many weight loss supplements marketed at older adults are mixtures of herbs, vitamins, minerals, or other ingredients. Many products claim to block fat absorption or to contain substances that speed up metabolism.
If all this talk about false claims and regulation has got you a little worried, don’t be! Most supplements available today have a lot of research behind them to back up the claims on the label. There are some great products for sale that provide fantastic results. And lastly, most importantly of all… have fun with it! Try something new now and then. You never know what gems you might discover or which old product will become your favorite supplement ever.
The supplement industry is full of companies trying to make as much money as possible by hooking you on their product. Some do this with clever marketing, claiming their product is endorsed by some celebrity (everyone wants to be like Mike). Others use false promises and ridiculous claims (Xtreme Form has recently started using the slogan “can you feel it working?”
Many people want weight-loss pills because they think they will be easier (convenient) and more effective than dieting or exercising. The FDA that all such results attributed to such products are either due to placebo effect or dangerous side effects, and scientific research has not borne out such claims.
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