Weight Loss Pills: Prescription & OTC Supplements

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The search for effective weight loss drugs continues. To date there are no overwhelmingly effective treatments for weight loss. There are however many promising medications that are on the market. Pharmaceutical drugs that you may get from your doctor go through rigorous scientific research before being released and most of the claims that the pharmaceutical companies make although exaggerated can usually be substantiated.

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This is not the case with the supplements and “weight loss pills” that you may get from your local health food store. None of these have to go through any sort of scientific tests to be marketed, and the makers do not have to substantiate their claims.

Despite this lack of evidence and even in the presence of evidence of no effect, people keep buying them in the hope that it may help. Weight loss is difficult, it requires effort and determination and there is a high level of failure. So manufactures of these weight loss supplements capitalise on desperate people that want an easy way out. But at this stage there is no easy way out.

In a recent review in a scientific journal many of the supplements were reviewed and the evidence for and against their effectiveness in weight loss was presented. I will here go through all of their conclusions. There were no supplements that had any dramatic effects on weight loss. The only supplements that had any effect were capsaicin, caffeine and fibre, but they were only effective if eaten in food.

There was no evidence that they were effective when taken as a supplement.

In conclusion, some substances have pharmacological effects but none have a proven role in weight reduction. The substances that have the best evidence for effect can easily be supplied in your low fat diet and therefore there is no reason whatsoever to use any of these supplements for weight loss. Unless the manufacturers of these products can show clear scientific evidence of the effect of these substances I would not recommend that you use any of them.

SOURCE: Egger, Cameron-Smith, Stanton, “The effectiveness of popular, non-prescription weight loss supplements”, MJA 171, Dec 1999, 604-608

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