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Ever thought of taking an over the counter or prescription weight loss pill to help shed those extra pounds?  While you might be in a hurry, wanting to break through a plateau or just wanting to try ANYTHING that might work, some scary and unpleasant side effects might make diet pills not worth your while.

Did you know that over-the-counter diet pills are actually unregulated by the FDA?  Many of these promise fast, miraculous weight loss without dieting or exercise.  These too-good-to-be-true claims are unregulated, untested and unproven.  We might think that ‘natural’ weight loss pills are safer, but often they can still have dangerous side effects.  Ephedra is a good example!  While ephedra is really just an herb, several side effects led to the FDA banning its use in the United States, including heart damage, digestive problems and death.

Let’s look at some of the side effects of the most commonly used prescription and over the counter diet pills today.


There are two types of prescription diet pills commonly used today, appetite suppressants and absorption blockers. Appetite suppressants, such as prescription Meridia, are actually stimulants, and include side effects like hypertension, heart problems, increased blood pressure, nausea, headaches anxiety, insomnia, and dizziness (including inability to operate vehicles and heavy machinery). Meridia can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and was temporarily banned in Italy, after 50 adverse reactions.  People using Meridia were found to lose about 10 more lbs in a year than people using a placebo.  That’s 10 lbs IN A YEAR…not a huge weight loss.  Is that worth the side effects?

diet pills stomach problemsAbsorption blockers like Xenical work by preventing the body’s ability to absorb dietary fat.  These can come with fun side effects like gas, abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, inability to absorb nutrients and loss of ability to control bowel movements.  Good times!  So, essentially you’re harming your digestive system in hopes of losing a few pounds.  And we are just talking about A FEW.  On the FAQ section of Xenical’s website, it mentions that people taking Xenical “lost twice as much weight as people who used the diet alone (approximately 13.4 lbs vs. 5.8 lbs).”  A 7 lb difference?  Is it really worth the side effects?


Over the counter and ‘natural’ weight loss drugs and supplements also tend to fall into the category of either appetite suppressants or fat absorption blockers.  Alli, which you can find in most large pharmacies, is a lower dose version of Xenical and has all of the same side effects.  Guar Gum and Chitosan are also fat absorption blockers and have side effects like diarrhea, flatulence, intestinal obstruction, constipation and bloating.

Some over the counter and natural diet pills and supplements in the appetite suppressant category include hoodia, bitter orange extract, green tea extract, and conjugated linoleic acid.  These having side effects like stomach problems, vomiting, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea and liver problems.

Chromium picolinate is another ingredient in many weight loss supplements.  It is used to reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings as well as suppress appetite. Sources are beginning to suggest that taking chromium supplements may have some serious side effects including damage to DNA and irritation to the GI tract.



These as-seen-on-TV diet pills generally contain a combination of some mixture of the ‘natural’ weight loss supplements above.  Typically their formulations are proprietary, making it impossible to know exactly what the ingredients are and in what quantities. Trimspa originally contained ephedra until it was banned by the FDA.  Sources say that Trimspa’s current formulation includes caffeine, bitter orange, and green tea extract (believed to work as stimulants) and hoodia, chromium, and glucomannan (fiber) are as appetite suppressants.

Like Trimspa, Hydroxycut originally contained ephedra but was forced to reformulate after the FDA ban.  Their current formulation includes green tea extract, chromium and a host of other herbs not mentioned above.  Some reports of serious health conditions have surfaced, liver problems being the main complaint.  Others included elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, headaches and dizziness.

The ban on ephedra prompted many weight loss supplement makers to begin to use ‘safe alternatives’ to ephedra in their formulations.  However, because these tend to also be stimulants, many of these seem have similar side effects to ephedra.  Bitter orange extract is one such ephedra alternative that can cause high blood pressure like ephedra. It contains synephrine, a compound similar to ephedra. Other stimulants like caffeine and yerba mate are also frequently used in weight loss supplements.  Synephrine containing supplements have side effects like increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory problems, extremely low blood sugar, dizziness and headaches.

Should you take weight loss drugs or supplements? Our recommendation?  Avoid weight loss pills of any kind – natural or not.  They’re not all that helpful for weight loss when it comes down to it – and their side effects aren’t worth the risk.  Instead, choose a solid nutrition and exercise plan, and have patience.  We’ve heard it said before, and it’s true…it didn’t take two weeks to put those extra pounds on and it will take more than two weeks to take them off.  Commit to lose weight in a healthy way and leave the smoke and mirrors out the of the picture.

For most women the goal is to achieve and maintain healthy lifelong weight loss and avoid the dreaded yo-yo effect with the same 10, 15, 20 or more pounds cycling on and off of your body repeatedly.  Diet pills will only cause yet another yo-yo, because as soon as you stop taking the pills return to your normal eating habits the lost weight will come piling back on.  What is really needed is a LIFELONG solution to both diet and fitness that fits seamlessly into your life.

If you’re looking for a nutrition and fitness plan that will help you make that lifestyle change, we invite you to try out Athlean-XX for Women.  We designed Athlean-XX for Women to be a REALISTIC plan for REAL women.  Our workouts are just 30 minutes per day, but they’ll get your heart pumping and get you in shape FAST!  Our diet plan is actually not a diet at all.  We want you to eat more!  Eat healthy foods 5 – 6 times per day, and you’ll get your metabolism revved like a well-oiled machine.  We also keep you inspired with our daily blog posts and our active Facebook community.  Join us on Team Athlean – we’ll keep help keep you motivated and reach your goals!

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