In the ideal world, regular exercise and calorie restriction would be sufficient for effective weight loss. The reality is different. While lifestyle modifications in the form of regular workouts and a healthy diet are the cornerstones of successful weight loss, you still need more support. The support often comes in the form of weight-loss pills. Not all pills are equally good for you. In this post, we’re going to focus on options that are considered safer than their counterparts. Scroll down to learn more.
Orlistat is a weight-loss pill available in both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) form but under different names of course. The prescription-based Orlistat has 120mg while OTC delivers 60mg. These pills are meant to be used as a part of a weight-loss plan that involves regular physical activity and a low-calorie/low-fat diet.
The OTC version is approved for use in adults 18 and older with a BMI of at least 25. On the flip side, the prescription version is intended for adults whose BMI is 30 or higher, but it’s also meant for those with BMI 27-29 who have other health risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease.
This weight-loss pill works by reducing the amount of dietary fat absorbed in the intestines. It acts on an enzyme called lipase.
Basically, lipase is an enzyme in the digestive tract. The main purpose of this enzyme is to help break down dietary fat into smaller components (1). That way, the body can use them or store them for energy. Orlistat works to inhibit the activity of lipase. So, when you take the weight-loss pill with a meal about 25% of the fat you ate isn’t broken down in the body. Instead, your body eliminates it with bowel movements.
Evidence shows that Orlistat works. Not just that, but it’s also a well-tolerated anti-obesity drug that can be employed as an adjunct to lifestyle changes in order to achieve and maintain optimal weight (2). While Orlistat is considered safe for consumption, some people may experience side effects. These are usually gastrointestinal issues such as loose stools, oily stools/spotting, abdominal pain, and fecal urgency.
Keep in mind these side effects tend to go away on their own. The most important thing is that Orlistat doesn’t have an adverse impact on hemoglobin, total leukocyte count, serum creatinine, and other parameters. All this confirms the positive safety profile of Orlistat.
To minimize the gastrointestinal side effects of this weight-loss pill you may need to eat a low-fat diet.
2. Raspberry ketones
Raspberry ketone is a natural substance that gives raspberries their powerful aroma. Other types of berries also have ketones, but they are present in the largest amounts in raspberries. Recently, raspberry ketones have become a popular weight-loss supplement. More and more people decide to try these over-the-counter products to slim down.
The molecular structure of raspberry ketones is quite similar to that of synephrine stimulant and capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers. These compounds increase metabolic rate, so ketones could work in a similar manner.
The mechanism of action of raspberry ketones revolves around increased breakdown of fat and improved release of hormone adiponectin (3). Raspberry ketones can break down fat by making the cells more susceptible to norepinephrine, a fat-burning hormone.
Your fat cells release adiponectin and it could play a role in regulating blood sugar levels and your metabolism. Evidence shows people with normal weight have higher levels of adiponectin than their overweight counterparts. As you lose weight, levels of this hormone may increase (4, 5).
Human studies on raspberry ketones are lacking, but animal research confirms these supplements can reduce body weight (6). Raspberry ketones are considered safe for consumption as they have a low risk of side effects.
Phentermine-topiramate is a combination of two medications, as you can conclude. Phentermine is meant to decrease your appetite whereas topiramate treats seizures or migraine headaches. A combination of the two drugs is meant to make you less hungry or feel full sooner. As a result, phentermine-topiramate could prevent overeating and all the problems it causes. After all, overeating is a common obstacle for many men and women on their way to weight loss.
The FDA approved a combination of phentermine and topiramate for weight loss in 2012. They approved it for use in adults with an initial BMI of at least 30 or those with a BMI of 27 or higher but who also have at least one weight-related condition. The weight-related conditions include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia.
In trials, subjects who received phentermine-topiramate for one year experienced an average weight loss of 6.7%, while those who received the highest dose had more pronounced results. They experienced weight loss of about 8.9% (7).
While the phentermine-topiramate combination is on the list of safer weight-loss pills, it can still induce some adverse reactions. These include constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, and trouble sleeping. As the body gets used to the pill the side effects will go away. You may also want to consult your healthcare provider or ask them to tweak the dosage. Don’t forget this drug is available with a prescription only. Taking this pill is not recommended to women during pregnancy (8).
Additionally, phentermine-topiramate capsules should be used in conjunction with an exercise plan and a reduced-calorie diet (9).
4. Garcinia cambogia extract
Garcinia cambogia is one of the most popular ingredients in weight-loss supplements. Not only is it found in the formula of different OTC products, but you can also go for Garcinia Cambogia on its own. The supplement is derived from the fruit of the same name. The peel of this fruit is abundant in hydroxycitric acid (HCA), the active ingredient responsible for the anti-obesity effects of Garcinia Cambogia (10).
The popularity of Garcinia Cambogia isn’t baseless. Studies show it can, indeed, help you slim down (11, 12). Supplementation with Garcinia Cambogia could cause a weight loss of about 2 pounds more than a placebo, over the course of two to 12 weeks (13).
So, how does garcinia Cambogia support weight loss? It works through several mechanisms. These include reduction in appetite, reducing belly fat, and blocking fat production.
Garcinia cambogia is safe for healthy people in the recommended dosages. For that reason, you should stick to the dosage instructions provided by the manufacturer. Additionally, you should keep in mind the industry of dietary supplements is not regulated by the FDA so there is no guarantee the quality of ingredients is going to be high. Your best bet is to buy Garcinia Cambogia from reliable brands.
Naltrexone-bupropion is a combination of two drugs as well. Naltrexone is generally used to treat alcohol and drug dependence whereas bupropion is primarily prescribed for the treatment of depression or to help people quit smoking. This weight loss pill works to suppress the feeling of hunger and help you feel full sooner.
Like other prescription-based weight-loss pills, the doctor prescribes naltrexone-bupropion only to act as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise plan. In other words, this is not a magical weight-loss pill that works on its own. You need to incorporate it into a proactive, healthy lifestyle. This is the case with OTC pills too, all of them should complement your diet and exercise measures.
Naltrexone-bupropion is prescribed to adults who have a BMI of 30 or higher, but also to adults with a BMI of 27 or higher in the presence of at least one weight-related condition. Intake of this weight-loss drug can lead to a significant weight loss compared to placebo.
Gastrointestinal side effects are common in persons with naltrexone-bupropion use, especially early in the treatment. These adverse reactions include constipation and nausea. Some people may experience headaches, dizziness, and sleep disorders (15). Other side effects may also occur as the body adjusts to the weight-loss pill but go away on its own. Your doctor may decrease the dosage if necessary.
Did you know caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world (16)? Most people can’t imagine starting their day without a nice cup of coffee and it’s all thanks to the alertness-promoting power of caffeine. The active compound in coffee is also available in the pill form in dietary supplements for which you don’t need a prescription. It’s not uncommon for people to use caffeine in an attempt to slim down.
Indeed, caffeine can help you lose weight and it works by speeding up your metabolism. Caffeine has the potential to boost metabolism by 3-11% (17). At the same time, it can increase fat-burning by 29% (18). All this leads to a successful weight loss.
Evidence confirms the use of caffeine can help promote weight loss and its maintenance (19). Caffeine is considered safe for consumption. But you shouldn’t go overboard, primarily because it’s a stimulant. High levels of caffeine could induce irritability, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, and other symptoms.
Caffeine supplement is more useful for persons who don’t get to obtain this compound otherwise e.g. to people who don’t drink coffee.
Phentermine is one of the most commonly prescribed weight-loss pills. The FDA approved Phentermine back in 1952 for short-term use of up to 12 weeks for people older than 16. In the 1990s, combinations of Phentermine with other drugs appeared, and we mentioned one of the above in this post.
A healthcare provider may prescribe Phentermine to a person who is obese i.e. if their BMI is 30 or higher. They may also prescribe the drug to an overweight person with a BMI of 27 or higher in the presence of weight-related comorbidities.
Phentermine works by suppressing appetite and limiting the number of calories you consume. Over time, reduced intake of calories and appetite suppression lead to weight loss. The drug may reduce appetite by acting on neurotransmitters in the brain.
The expected average weight loss with Phentermine is about 5% of the initial body weight. But, over 12 weeks this weight loss could be as high as 10%. That means a person who weighs 200lbs could lose 10 to 20lbs with Phentermine. It’s useful to mention Phentermine could be more effective in combination with topiramate.
When it comes to safety profile it’s crucial to remember Phentermine was approved for short-term use only. You’re not supposed to take it for a long time. Serious side effects are rare. Some people may experience adverse reactions such as dry mouth, sleeping problems, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, and constipation.
While it’s safe for healthy persons, your doctor may not prescribe phentermine if you have heart disease, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, or glaucoma (20).
Glucomannan is a type of fiber present in the roots of the elephant yam, known as konjac. You’ve probably come across glucomannan weight loss supplements. Their popularity keeps increasing. Basically, glucomannan works by absorbing water and becoming gel-like. This allows glucomannan to sit in your gut and promote the feeling of fullness to suppress your appetite and help you eat less. Since glucomannan is a fiber, it exhibits positive effects on gut microbiota.
Since it’s available as a dietary supplement, glucomannan is considered safe for consumption. Dietary supplements, after all, revolve around natural ingredients. That said, some people may experience side effects such as bloating, soft stools, flatulence. These side effects tend to go away on their own.
To get the most from glucomannan you should take the pills about half an hour before meals with a glass of water. This will allow enough time for fiber to absorb water and expand and make you eat less.
9. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is one of the most popular weight loss pills that you can get without a doctor’s prescription. The supplementation with CLA has the potential to reduce appetite, speed up metabolism, and stimulate the breakdown of fat.
Compared to placebo, CLA intake was found to be more effective for weight loss (21). In fact, CLA and induce clinically relevant changes in body composition in the long term.
Even though it is considered effective for weight loss and safe for general consumption, CLA can induce some adverse reactions. These are usually in the form of gastrointestinal problems. Although CLA is available in OTC form, you shouldn’t use it too long.
Prescription vs. OTC
Your weight loss endeavor should start with reduced calorie intake and a specific exercise plan. If these lifestyle adjustments fail to work, you may want to consult your doctor about the next solution. Prescription weight loss pills are more powerful but only meant for short-term use. OTC weight-loss pills have less strength, but you can use them for longer if necessary. Your doctor will advise you regarding the best option.
Successful weight loss often results from a gentle push provided by weight-loss pills. These pills may be prescribed by a doctor or bought in OTC form. Options are numerous. However, you should remember they are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle, well-balanced diet, and regular exercise. Instead, they are formulated to act as an adjunct to your lifestyle modifications.