The question about diet pills safety, is a tricky one. One could resort to the weight loss pills and live with their side-effects or choose a healthier option, i.e., to have a control over the diet, to exercise regularly, etc. If appropriate measures are taken, one need not rely on diet pills for weight loss.
Nowadays, most of the worries related to diet pills are associated with ephedrine. An alkaloid obtained from the leaves of Ephedra sinica and Ephedra equisetina, ephedrine is responsible for various health problems such as seizures, strokes, heart attacks, etc. The amphetamine-like compounds present in ephedrine extracts have lethal effects on the functioning of the central nervous system. These amphetamine-like compounds are also responsible for the dilation of bronchial muscles, raising the blood pressure, increasing the heart rate, etc. Psychological problems such as nervousness, depression, rapid heart rate, insomnia, etc. are also the result of intake of ephedrine extracts.
Diet Pills – Introduction
The pharmacological agents used in controlling or reducing weight are termed as weight-loss or diet pills. The natural process of metabolism or appetite is altered by these medications/diet pills. Catecholamines (amphetamine-based drugs) are the main chemicals used in suppression of the appetite. Increasing the rate of metabolism is one way, through which, weight loss pills work. Orlistat, which is known by the trade name Xenical prevents absorption of fat by blocking its breakdown. Guar gum and glucomannan are the dietary fibers used in lowering calorie absorption and inhibiting digestion.
The Safety Concern
Most of the diet pills sold in the market today, are NOT verified by the FDA. The ‘Dietary Supplement Health and Education’ Act (DSHEA) of 1994 deems the weight-loss pills as food. The marketing claims of most weight loss pills therefore, need not be fulfilled. Most of the people consider these claims to be true, which leads to several health issues. In a survey conducted by Center for Survey Research and Analysis (CSRA) of the University of Connecticut, in the year 2006, 54% out of 3,500 adults believed that the pills, which are being sold over-the-counter are approved by the FDA. Today, the only diet (weight-loss) pill that has been approved by FDA is ‘Alli’.
The answer to the above question in relation to a few diet pills is a ‘yes’. Some of the ingredients (used in diet pills), which are harmful for health are mentioned below.
- Bitter Orange: It is a diet pill ingredient, which has a similar effect on health to that of ephedra. Bitter orange has many side-effects; increase in blood pressure and the rate of heartbeat, are the prominent ones. Usage of bitter orange along with caffeine maximizes the harmful effects. In an article published in the journal ‘Clinical Advisor’, it is said that the beneficial effects of bitter orange are very less in comparison to its ill effects.
- Kava: The Kava supplement is associated with liver toxicity. It is marketed with the claims of providing anxiety relief and facilitating weight loss. Kava was banned in countries like Germany and Canada in the year 2002. The FDA, USA, too had warned about its association with liver toxicity in the same year.
- Usnic Acid: This chemical is present in a diet pill called Lipolyze and it causes acute liver toxicity. As per the ‘Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’, no evidence has been found regarding the effectiveness of usnic acid in dealing with weight loss.
Weight loss pills are known to alter the natural processes of the body in order to reduce weight. Hence, these supplements cannot be termed as a healthy option for weight loss. In fact, one should resort to other ways such as a good workout routine, intake of balanced diet, leading a stress-free life, etc., to maintain physical fitness.