Before you consider whether to use any over-the-counter diet aid, find out if you really need to lose weight. A healthy weight is a weight that lowers your risk for health problems. For most people, body mass index (BMI) and waist size are good ways to tell if they are at a healthy weight.
If you practice healthy eating habits and are active enough to stay healthy, then weighing a few extra pounds is not bad for your health unless you have other medical problems. On the other hand, dieting can be bad for your health. Diets almost never work, and they can cause many people to fall into an unhealthy cycle of losing and gaining weight. This is often called yo-yo dieting. It may be harder on the body than just being overweight.
If you are thinking about losing weight, ask your doctor whether it's a good idea for you.
There are many products for weight loss that you can buy without a prescription at drugstores and supermarkets and over the Internet. Many of these have never been proved to work, and those that do work usually come with warnings.
What about Alli?
Alli (say "AL-eye") is a lower-dose version of the prescription drug orlistat (Xenical), which is used to treat obesity. You can buy Alli without a prescription.
Orlistat has been proved to help people lose weight.1 It works by preventing fat absorption, so that the fat you eat moves through your intestines undigested. But the weight loss amounts to only a few pounds, and the drug's side effects can be very unpleasant.
The side effects include sudden loose stools and oily spotting on your underwear. The more fat you eat, the worse the side effects are, so it's best to limit fat while you are taking this drug.
Do not take Alli if you:
Talk to your doctor before you take Alli, but especially if you:
Most over-the-counter diet aids don't have to pass government tests for safety or effectiveness.
Long-term studies are the only way to tell if a medicine or supplement works and is safe. And there are very few such studies of diet aids. But we know about the following risks:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns people not to use certain diet aids that are known to be tainted with drugs or chemicals. You can find the FDA's warning list, which includes many popular diet aids, at www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm103184.htm.
The FDA has banned the sale of ephedra (also known as ma huang) because of concerns about safety. The product has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and some deaths.
It's wise to talk to your doctor before you take any over-the-counter diet aid.
Your doctor is not likely to recommend that you use an over-the-counter diet aid in your efforts to reach a healthy weight and stay there. The best way to get to a healthy weight and stay there is to eat right and exercise regularly.
To be safe, always talk to your doctor before using any weight-loss product.
|Use an over-the-counter diet aid||Don't use an over-the-counter diet aid|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I have a lot of weight to lose, and I want to try an over-the-counter diet aid. I'm not technically obese, but my weight is definitely not healthy. I've tried to make healthy eating and exercise work, but I think I need more help."
— Nathalie, age 51
"I thought about using a diet aid to help myself lose weight, but I've decided against it. I know that I'm overweight because of some bad habits I've developed. I plan to improve my eating and activity habits by taking a few small steps at a time."
— Mohammed, age 32
"I plan to use an over-the-counter diet aid. I talked to my doctor about it, and she wasn't too enthusiastic. But we agreed on a plan where I will check in with her often so she can monitor my progress and any side effects I may have."
— Jada, age 44
"I was all set to start using a diet aid, but my doctor talked me out of it. He told me how the research just doesn't support using these supplements, especially considering some of the possible side effects. He said changing my lifestyle habits would be better for my health in the long run."
— Nadia, age 29
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to use over-the-counter diet aids
Reasons not to use over-the-counter diet aids
I'm desperate and have to try something else, even though I know that diet aids don't usually work.
I don't feel so desperate that I have to try something that I know probably won't work.
I'm not worried about spending money on diet pills that may not work.
I don't want to spend money on something that I know may not work.
I'm willing to have my doctor monitor my progress while I use a diet aid.
I'm not willing to have my doctor monitor my progress.
I'm not worried about using supplements that may have unknown side effects.
I'm very worried about using supplements that may have unknown side effects.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Using over-the-counter diet aids
NOT using over-the-counter diet aids
1. Are most diet aids safe for anyone to use?
2. Do I need to make any lifestyle changes while I'm using a diet aid?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator|