The hidden cost of weight loss pills

By Dr Sophie Duggan

weight loss pills

Weight loss pills might help you to lose weight, but can they also cost you your health?

Weight loss pills are a multi-million pound business. Obesity is the single biggest health challenge to the 21st century, and a medication that could solve it would be a breakthrough comparable to the discovery of antibiotics. And so of course, there are plenty of people out there willing to take your money in return for a promise that they have already achieved just that – a weight loss pill that can bring you back to the healthy shape you’re meant to be. 

But can you trust them? Before popping a miracle pill, it pays to look at the facts that don’t feature in the advertising. 

In April 2015, Eloise Parry, a 21-year-old student, died after taking weight loss pills containing dinitrophenol, or DNP, a supplement widely promoted online to boost the body’s ability to burn fat and carbohydrate. Prior to the death of Miss Parry, the supplement had been linked to at least five other deaths in the UK in recent years. 

 DNP belonged to a family of weight loss pills that work by disrupting your metabolism. As metabolism is a complex process, the pills vary widely in their mechanism of action. Commonly, pills marketed to promote weight loss contain ephedrine, a chemical that induces the body’s natural “fight or flight” response, causing an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. As long ago as 2004, the US Federal Drug Agency banned the sale of all ephedrine-containing dietary supplements after a spate of strokes and heart attacks in otherwise young and healthy people. 

Weight loss pills don’t have to be illegal in order to be seriously harmful. Acomplia, launched in the UK as a prescription medicine to treat obesity, was withdrawn worldwide just two years later due to its side effects, which included anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Reductil, another prescription anti-obesity medication, was discontinued in the UK due to safety concerns that it could potentially increase the risk of strokes or heart attacks. Your GP or pharmacist may still prescribe Orlistat (Xenical) to help with weight loss, but you’ll need to be prepared for the side-effects: increased risk of kidney stones, malabsorption of vitamins A, D, E, K and beta-carotene, abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhoea, and – if this still doesn’t put you off – fecal incontinence. Hardly ideal 

If banned medications are a no-no, then could herbal remedies be the answer? Not if you read the results of a 2013 study carried out in Iceland. Of all cases of drug-induced liver injury reported that year, 16 per cent – nearly one in five – was found to be due to herbal and dietary supplements. Over-consumption of concentrated green tea extract, which can be particularly harmful on an empty stomach, was noted in several cases. Garcinia cambogiaa herb which reduces carbohydrate-to-fat conversion, has also been found to cause liver fibrosis and inflammation. Chinese herbal weight loss pills frequently contain aristocholic acid, which can cause serious harm to kidneys, as can chromium picolinate – a weight loss pill that you can buy freely at most health food shops. 

Of course, for every bad outcome that makes it into medical literature or the news, many people take weight loss pills and do not experience – or are not yet aware of – their harmful side effects. But whether or not weight loss pills make you feel ill, they deprive you of the chance to develop eating habits that will do much more than help you to lose weight. With the right lifestyle, you can achieve your ideal size, fight the ageing process, defend your cells against cancer, improve your mood, and cut your chances of developing chronic disease. There’s no weight loss pill in existence that can do that. 

At the Fast800, we have one mission: to help you to achieve all of the above, and moreWe know how much it matters to feel in control of your weight and your eating, and experience has shown us just how transforming this kind of confidence can be.  

Staying slim and healthy in the 21st century is a challenge like no other, which is why we have developed a programme like no other. It works, it works quickly, and it works for life. And it makes you look and feel better than you have done in years. A bitter pill for the diet supplement industry to swallow, perhaps – but good news for human beings.