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Four Things You Should Know Before Taking Diet Pills

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

Just Take a Pill

Big Pharma wants us all to think that there is a pill for every condition. Can’t fall asleep? Take a pill. Can’t wake up? Take a pill. Can’t poop? Take a pill. I could go on, but I think you see the pattern. We in the USA have been led to believe that all of our medical issues can be solved easily with some sort of medicine. With that in mind, and given that an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, it’s not surprising that there are dozens of prescription medications and OTC supplements currently being marketed for weight loss. And yes, I’m including so-call “healthy” herbal supplements in the mix, since even those can often cause more harm than good.

Of course, if you have a bona fide medical issue, like problems with your thyroid gland, then, by all means, seek out appropriate medical attention. Now that we have that out of the way, here are the four things you need to know about diet pills before you take them.

1. How They Work

Diet pills are not magic. They have specific effects on your body that you should know about if you plan to take them. So let’s start with a discussion of the three primary mechanisms at work with these diet aids. They can:

  1. Suppress appetite, e.g., ephedra, hoodia, or country mallow (so you don’t feel hungry)
  2. Increase metabolism, e.g., bitter orange, chromium, green tea extract (so you burn off more calories)
  3. Block fat absorption, e.g., Alli, chitosan, guar gum (so you don’t absorb some of the fat you eat)

Think about that for a moment. All three of these things cause your body to do something (or not do something) it would naturally do. So you are basically tinkering with your body’s natural “operating system” in a manner of speaking. And just like a computer, if you change a setting in one area, it’s likely to trigger changes in other areas as well. Unfortunately, not all of those changes will be safe or best for your overall health in the long run. So while you might increase your sense of fullness, boost your metabolism, or block some of your fat consumption, you do so at the risk of several serious and harmful side effects. More on those in a moment.

2. How They Are Regulated

There are a few other things you should know about diet pills. For example, dietary supplements don’t require FDA approval, which means that potentially unsafe ingredients may be sold to the public. The lax regulation of dietary supplements has permitted prescription level drugs to find their way into these pills. This is bad news if you have an underlying cardiovascular or other poor health condition. You might find out the hard way how serious the complications can be.

3. Potential Side Effects

Okay, so let’s delve into those side effects. Some of the pills are actually stimulants that have been found to increase your risk for hypertension, breathing problems, palpitations, stroke, or heart attack. Some pills contain amphetamines, which are highly addictive. Others contain fat blockers that interfere with your nutrient absorption (e.g., you can become deficient in vitamins A and D) and can cause stomach problems, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and mood swings.

Finally, some pills are simply diuretics (water pills) that cause water loss and may lead to severe dehydration. The kicker with this final side effect is that the lower weight you may experience could just be water weight that will return, leaving you with no true loss except in your wallet.

4. Lack of Sustainability

Taking pills may help you drop some pounds in the short run, but you can’t keep taking them forever. Once you stop, you’ll likely return to your former weight, since you probably learned nothing new about your eating habits and exercise patterns. Unless or until you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you are not likely to sustain a permanent weight loss and maintain your ideal weight.

One Final Thought

I’m not saying that all diet supplements are harmful. If they are used appropriately, and in combination with modifications to your diet and increased activity levels, then they can speed up your desired weight loss. If that’s what you need to achieve your goal, then, by all means, look into that option. But do deep research on any product that you decide to put in your body, and of course, consult your personal physician. Don’t just look at the advertisements from the product vendors. Look them up on authoritative medical websites. As the old saying goes, “buyer beware.”


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Carolyn Fields


Carolyn Fields (author) from South Dakota, USA on June 17, 2018:


Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, diet pills are an upper. And what goes up, must come down. As you point out, eating properly is the way to go.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 17, 2018:

When I was young it was so easy to get diet pills, and they were sure a upper. You could thoroughly clean your whole house in a day. Obviously, that isn't healthy. I would never gain much, but would take diet pills for a few days. It seems quite stupid now, but when you are young you think you are invinceable.

Now, I eat properly. I think there may be some doctors with programs that are good, but I don't know. I think your suggestion of reading on these products on the web is excellent. Any ill you take has a good, and a byproduct that is not always good. Good article!

Gregory DeVictor from Pittsburgh, PA on April 10, 2018:

Thanks for the heads-up about an overly rigid approach.

Carolyn Fields (author) from South Dakota, USA on April 10, 2018:


Thanks for reading and commenting. I, too, have eliminated a lot of foods from my diet, like pie, cake, candy, etc. - for the most part. I never say never, however, because I feel that an overly rigid approach sometimes leads to cravings. But that's just me.

Glad you enjoyed the hub.

Gregory DeVictor from Pittsburgh, PA on April 10, 2018:

Carolyn, thank you for a very educational article. First, I didn’t know that less than 1% of obese people have an issue with their thyroid gland. Likewise, I did not know that chromium increases metabolism.

I am a fanatic about weight and exercise. I have eliminated toxins like white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and oats from my diet. I also fast for at least 12 hours every day. Finally, I get plenty of physical exercise daily.

I live in a metropolitan area where at least 75% of the people are overweight. That alone gives plenty of motivation to eat right and get regular exercise.

Carolyn Fields (author) from South Dakota, USA on April 10, 2018:

Thanks for the comment, Larry. I feel basically the same way. I will admit to drinking more coffee for the caffeine (which is a drug, actually), but that's my limit.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 10, 2018:

I have never taken diet pills, Carolyn. I have dieted my way, cutting out fast food, cutting out soda, laying off of the sweets. I feel personally that taking pills to do what can be done with willpower is not the way to go.