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Diet Pill Dilemmas

Nutritionist Clare Jones gives her expert opinion on weight loss pills

Written by . Published on July 8th 2011.

Diet Pill Dilemmas

AS we head towards holiday season, there seem to be an increasing number of adverts for 'diet pills' in magazines and online, designed to appeal to those desperate for a short-cut to a bikini-fit body. But do the products deliver on their promises and can a pill really lead to lasting, healthy weight-loss?

Products Available

AlliAlliDrugs: Alli is the trade name for a drug called 'Orlistat', which suppresses the enzyme responsible for aiding the absorption of fat from the diet. What this means is that fats are excreted in your stools and, according to the manufacturers, side effects include ‘....wind with or without oily spotting, sudden or more frequent bowel movements, fatty or oily stools and loose stools.’ Nice.

This doesn't sound like a solution that’s going to improve your swimwear look (or your social life). The manufacturers do recommend changing your diet while taking the product, which does beg the question - why do you need a pill when you can just alter your eating habits? Hmmm.

AdiosAdiosHerbal products: Adios describes itself as ‘a licensed herbal medicine traditionally used to aid slimming’, which, the manufacturers claim, speeds up your body's metabolic rate and boosts fat metabolism.

How it does this is not explained. The ingredients are fucus (a type of seaweed), boldo (a Chilean evergreen), butternut and dandelion. It also contains lactose and sucrose - both sugars - not ideal if you want to lose weight. I can't find any research that supports the effectiveness of this product for weight loss. Again, the manufacturers also recommend that you follow a calorie-controlled diet and increase your exercise.

AppesatAppesatFibre complexes: There are various products on the market that contain 'patented fibre complexes' which claim to aid slimming. For example Lipobind, which contains a fibre complex derived from dried cactus extract, and Appesat, which has a fibre complex extracted from seaweed. The manufacturers of Lipobind say that it is ‘a clinically proven fat binder that contains Litramine™, a patented natural fibre complex made from dried cactus extract’ but I cannot find any research to back up the ‘clinically proven’ claim.

The Appesat website claims people taking it feel full for longer, resulting in weight loss. It cites two studies, neither of which seems to have been published in any scientific journal. Of course, just eating more vegetables will increase your fibre intake (with the added bonus of more vitamins and minerals too) and might well be a better alternative.

And the rest: There seem to be plenty of others too. Another that caught my eye was from a website offering a whole array of ‘weight loss solutions’, you can also buy ‘slimming drinks (which) are the first product of its kind that turns your everyday bottle of water into a powerful fat burning, metabolism boosting, zero calorie, zero carb, sugar free slimming drink’. Sounds a bit like...water!?

The bottom line? 

If you want to lose weight and keep it off permanently, you will have to make permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle. 

Even as a short-term option, it's unlikely that these pills will offer any more weight loss than following a healthy diet programme and certainly there is no guarantee of permanent weight loss.

Personally, I'd rather change my eating habits than swallow a pill that gives me ‘fecal incontinence’ (ie. losing control of your bowels). The marketing literature for these products frequently focuses on ‘fat-binding’ properties but it's important to bear in mind that fat is an important part of our diets and using anything that might interfere with fat absorption means that we risk shortages of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, not to mention the negative impact on our skin from too little dietary fat.

All of the products above recommended following a ‘calorie-controlled diet’ and increasing exercise while swallowing the pills....is is too simplistic to ask why not just do the diet and exercise?

The advice given here is not intended to replace medical advice. Always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health.

Clare Jones, BA(Hons), Dip ION, mBANT
Nutritional Therapy 07985 166606.

If you would like to make an appointment for a personal nutrition consultation with Clare, please contact her on the above number or visit Clare’s website: www.clarejones-nutrition.co.uk

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