Do Weight Loss Pills Work: Our Review of OTC and Prescription Drugs for Weight Loss

do weight loss pills work

Did you know that 57.6% of adults use dietary supplements monthly? The rates are higher amongst females, and multiple supplement usage increases past age 60. 

The driving force behind dietary supplements is advertisements and marketing that cater to instant treatments. This is primarily why many people have started asking, “do weight loss pills work?” The advertisements online are likely for supplements with a host of dangerous side effects. 

Prescription medications have stricter regulations, but are those any better? Luckily, we have put together a complete guide that will go over weight loss pills, the best weight loss plans, and how you can get started today, so keep reading for more information!

What Causes Weight Gain?

Weight gain is often multi-causal and more complex than simply eating too many calories. Here are what medical experts found that may contribute to weight gain:

  • Genetics
  • Processed foods
  • Food cravings/addiction
  • Insulin resistance
  • Medications
  • Leptin resistance
  • Food availability
  • Added sugars
  • Inaccurate nutritional advice

Some biological causes, such as a predisposition to obesity, can make losing weight harder, even when you cut calories and increase exercise. 

Why Is Obesity an Epidemic?

The obesity epidemic became more problematic during the pandemic, with 42% of American adults reporting weight gain. Even gaining 11 extra pounds places you at a greater risk for chronic health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Type II diabetes

Current obesity and overweight rates hover around 75% in America, with nearly 15% of children falling into this category. Obesity is one of the leading causes of several negative health outcomes and reduces a person’s quality of life. 

Along with genetics, poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, and lack of sleep are some lifestyle factors that add inches to your waistline. Metabolic syndromes are a primary concern with obesity, causing multiple conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Metabolic conditions can also slow your metabolism and make it more challenging to lose weight.

What Are Weight Loss Pills?

Weight loss pills, also called anti-obesity medication, are medications and supplements marketed to help you lose weight. But is there any truth to the commercials and advertisements offering a simple solution to your weight loss journey?

Not necessarily. 

If doctors prescribe prescription weight loss pills, it is after exhausting other avenues. It is recommended that medication use is in conjunction with diet and exercise. The FDA has five approved weight loss medications:

  • Orlistat (e.g., Xenical, Alli)
  • Phentermine-topiramate (e.g., Qsymia)
  • Naltrexone-bupropion (e.g., Contrave)
  • Semaglutide (e.g., Wegovy)

Additionally, the FDA has a few short-term medications approved for reducing food cravings. These prescribed medications are not for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. 

Weight Loss Medication Side Effects

Prescription medications for weight loss come with many adverse side effects and may not be safe for everyone. Some of the more common side effects of prescription weight loss medications are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hypertension
  • Tachycardia
  • Hepatoxicity
  • Headaches
  • Depression

Some drugs like orlistat can reduce fat absorption and affect stools and digestion. 

Unregulated medications pose even more significant risks. For example, the FDA has listed a warning for users consuming over the counter weight loss pills listed as supplements. They may be laced with harmful additives or unlisted drug ingredients. 

These can react with other prescription medications, lead to unwanted side effects, and cause lasting medical issues. 

Are There Weight Loss Pills That Actually Work?

Safety issues and a myriad of unwanted side effects have plagued weight loss medications. Newer prescription weight loss pills hold some promise for future treatments. Clinical trials examining the drug tirzepatide found weight loss results varying between 15% and 21% based on dosages. 

The drug is an injection, and study participants remained in the trial for 72 weeks. The drug was only used for individuals who met specific criteria, such as obesity or overweight parameters.  

Other meta-analysis studies found that the most successful drugs for weight loss included:

  • Phentermine and topiramate
  • Pramlintide
  • Naltrexone
  • Bupropion
  • Liraglutide

However, the researchers suggested that first-line treatments for obesity and overweight management are behavioral, dietary, and exercise modifications. These come with fewer side effects and safety risks and promote better long-term health outcomes. 

Can You Trust Any Over-the-Counter Supplements?

Supplements fall under different federal regulation parameters than drugs or medications. Dietary supplements are regulated as food and often contain hidden ingredients that are falsely marketed. Since dietary supplements don’t have strict guidelines like prescription medications, they can often interact with other drugs. 

But just how dangerous are these supplements?

Recently, the FDA tested 70 weight loss, and male enhancement products found online. These supplements were supplied by common online retailers such as Amazon or Walmart. 

Most of the products contained pharmaceutical ingredients not listed, including all 29 products tested from Amazon. Some of the undeclared active ingredients include:

  • Tadalafil
  • Sildenafil
  • Sibutramine
  • Desmethylsibutramine
  • Phenolphthalein
  • Fluoxetine

Tadalafil and sildenafil are common active ingredients in drugs such as Viagra that help with erectile dysfunction. Often, these medications can interact with cardiovascular medications like nitrates. 

Sibutramine is an appetite suppressant that blocks the reuptake of several neurotransmitters. After 13 years on the market, it was recalled in 2010. Medical experts found that sibutramine increased patients’ risk for cardiovascular diseases

If using supplements, you should visit the FDA’s site on tainted products first. Also, reach out to your doctor or medical provider about safe dietary supplements to aid your weight loss journey. 

Medical Weight Loss Programs

Medical weight loss programs help people lose weight safely and develop healthy lifestyle changes. Not all programs are equally created, and you will want to take a few steps to ensure your safety first, such as:

  • Medical or weight loss claims
  • Professional credentials, licensure, and/or experience
  • Combination programs (e.g., lifestyle coaching, nutritional advice, medical management)

Talk to your doctor about your health risks first and discuss the program you are interested in participating in. Medical weight loss programs should incorporate these four pillars:

  • Lifestyle coaching
  • Nutrition and lifestyle education
  • Ensuring safety while losing weight (I.e., avoiding rapid weight loss)
  • Continuous support (e.g., email, text, video chat)

Programs should be customizable and aim for healthy life changes, such as recognizing food cravings, adopting exercise, reducing stress, and managing weekly weight loss. On average, you should only lose one to two pounds weekly. If programs advertise rapid weight loss, they may not be efficacious. 

Recognizing and Stopping Food Cravings

Recognizing and stopping food cravings is one key area where you can start. First, identify your triggers. You can ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do you feel stressed?
  • What types of foods do you crave?
  • Do you have your food cravings on hand?
  • What is happening right before your cravings start?

Sometimes, hormonal changes can lead to food cravings, such as a woman is on her menstrual cycle. Stress and food availability could also trigger cravings. 

Next, distance yourself from food cravings. This may include asking friends and family not to bring certain foods home or emptying your cupboards. If the food isn’t readily available, you will be less likely to eat it. 

Instead, start incorporating healthy alternatives. While this may not sound fun at first, it is a great tool to start feeding what your body is actually asking for. For example, if you are craving chocolate, your body may be telling you it is deprived of fats, magnesium, or phosphorus. 

Instead of pulling out that candy bar that will make you more hungry a short period later, swap it for some raw nuts. If you crave a salty snack, look at purchasing hummus and veggies instead. 

Track Your Calories

Another tool you can use is online apps that help you track and manage your caloric intake. Here is some daily calorie consumption guidelines for sedentary adults: 

  • Males ages 21-30: 2,400
  • Females ages 19-30: 1,800-2,000
  • Males ages 31-50: 2,200-2,400
  • Females ages 31-50: 1,800
  • Males ages 51 and over: 2,000-2,200
  • Females ages 51 and over: 1,600

Use this as a general guideline and consider seeking professional help to track your activity and caloric needs. Moderately active individuals may need an additional 200 or more calories daily. A restrictive diet can lead to malnutrition and cause nutrient deficiencies, mood changes, and lethargy. 

Instead, incorporate healthy foods that supply your body with necessary macro and micronutrients. The MyUncraveRx Wellness App provides 24/7 access to videos, messaging, and food diaries to help you remain accountable. It helps track calories and gives you quick access to wellness specialists who can assist you with dietary and nutrition changes. 

Lifestyle Coaching

Lifestyle coaching is arguably one of the most essential pieces to a weight loss journey. A qualified wellness and lifestyle coach helps with accountability, goal setting, and developing healthy habits. 

Research shows that lifestyle coaches reduce procrastination, boost self-efficacy, and improve well-being. These qualified trainers offer emotional support, advice, and facilitate relationships with others who may be on similar journeys. 

Remember, these are not licensed medical providers like nutritionists, medical doctors, or psychologists. They cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions. 

Nutritional coaches are also different, although you may have a lifestyle coach with expertise in both fields. Typically, a nutritional coach focuses on one tier: diet and food. Lifestyle coaches blend everyday aspects that contribute to your health and wellness.

Are Weight Loss Pills Used in These Programs?

Sometimes, weight loss pills are used in medical programs, but they mainly assist with food cravings rather than shedding pounds. Most qualified medical weight loss experts agree that a well-balanced approach is safer for your weight loss journey. Studies looked at weight loss management programs in the workforce with and without anti-obesity medication. 

The experts found that after twelve months, the group who participated in weight loss management programs with medication lost 4% more weight than those who only participated in the program. The participants assigned medication used one of the listed FDA-approved drugs and were medically monitored. 

Do Weight Loss Pills Work, or Are They a Fad? 

Weight loss pills aren’t a fad unless shopping for online supplements that government agencies do not regulate. These are often more harmful than beneficial.

Prescriptions have a time and place in your weight loss journey. Still, comprehensive research shows that there are more important things to focus on.

There are five main approaches experts have agreed upon when it comes to shedding pounds, such as:

  1. Dietary and nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Behavioral changes
  4. Pharmaceuticals
  5. Surgery

Diet, exercise, and behavioral approaches should always be used together. Short-term weight loss advertisements do have some success, but research shows it is not a viable long-term option. 

Nearly 95% of participants in short-term weight loss journeys regained their lost weight after three years. In many instances, these weight loss programs are diet fads that result in more weight gain down the road. 

Out of 15 studies, the medical experts concluded that these four values contribute the most to weight loss maintenance:

  • Sustained motivation
  • Encouraging experiences
  • Addressing current challenges
  • Enduring discouraging experiences

Lifestyle coaching and medical weight loss programs provide you with critical help, encouragement, and education that address these four areas of weight loss concern. It can give you valuable and lifelong tools that lead to healthier and more sustainable weight loss than other methods. When necessary, the medical experts can advise on more aggressive interventions such as medication or surgical procedures. 

Starting Your Weight Loss Journey

If you have wondered, “do weight loss pills work?” you are not alone. Many Americans fall into the trap of fad diets and online supplements. Unfortunately, these false advertisements can slow metabolisms, interfere with medications, and lead to adverse effects. 

Instead, the prescribed medication should always be under the recommendation and guidance of a qualified medical professional. Medical weight loss programs should be a first-line treatment option that includes lifestyle modifications, nutrition guidance, and support.

Are you ready to get started? At UnCraveRx, we specialize in medically safe weight loss journeys.

 Click here to find an UnCraveRx provider near you.


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