Diet pills: Do they really work?

Diet pills sound like the easy option for people who struggle to lose weight but the truth is they don’t work for everyone, and they can have some really serious and dangerous side effects. And while we’re not suggesting you use diet pills, we felt it would be useful to outline exactly what they are and how they work, so you know the facts before you decide if they’re for you or not.

Here, we outline the pros and cons of the most popular over-the-counter brands and with the help of nutritionist Carina Norris, explain exactly what diet pills are.

Most of you will have seen that if you go into any large chemist or health food shop you’ll find a variety of pills and supplements that claim to help you lose weight. These supplements fall into one of three categories:

Fat binders

These supplements cling to the fat that you eat and carry it through your digestive system before you can absorb it. In theory, you lose the fat when you go to the toilet and you don’t put on any weight.

Metabolism boosters

These are often made from herbs like guarana and green tea and claim to boost your metabolism so your body burns fat faster than usual.

Appetite suppressants

There are two types of appetite suppressants, one type is fibre-based and fills your stomach so you’re unable to eat as much as you normally would. The other type works on the part of the brain that tells you when you are full so you eat smaller portions than usual.

Diet pill side effects

You may think that the worst case scenario will be if the pills don’t work and are a waste of money. But actually, the effects can be far worse than just leaving you out of pocket…

Diet pills do carry side effects, some of which can be really nasty, even life-threatening. You may remember Fen-phen? An appetite-suppressing pill which was pulled from the US market after causing terrible heart valve damage. And more recently the UK has seen two products banned: Reductil, which made some people feel suicidal, and Acomplia, which increased the risk of users having a heart-attack or stroke. 

But the worst we’ve heard of by far has to be DNP, a fertiliser which is packaged into tablets and sold as a fat-burning pill. It’s actually illegal to sell for human consumption, and has caused 60 deaths worldwide to date. Terrifying, right?


Check with your GP

Speak to your doctor first. You might have an underlying health condition, which means slimming pills aren’t suitable for you. Or they might contain an ingredient that could interfere with other medication that you’re taking.

Your doctor can give you an accurate picture of your current weight, how much you need to lose and over how long. They might also be able to give you extra support such as access to a dietician.

It’s not just about taking a pill

Don’t forget losing weight and keeping it off isn’t just about cutting calories, you have to do some exercise too. That doesn’t mean you have to join a gym – there are other ways to be more active, such as doing more walking.

If you’re stuck for ideas, why not try our easy ways to exercise.

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