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Diet Pills, Weight Loss Drugs: How They Work and Who Should Use

Maintaining a healthy weight is important Maintaining a healthy weight is important

Maintaining a healthy weight is important because being overweight or underweight may lead to various health issues. Body mass index or BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. Thus, if your weight is 50 kg and your height is 1.5 m, your BMI will be 22.2 Kg/m2. You must know the accurate values of your weight and height to calculate your BMI. This can be done with the help of your healthcare provider.

Based on your BMI, you can find out if you are:

  • Underweight: It means your BMI is less than 18.5 Kg/m2
  • In normal or healthy weight range: If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9 Kg/m2
  • Overweight: If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9 Kg/m2
  • Obese: If your BMI is 30.0 Kg/m2 or more 

According to health experts, long-term weight loss can be safely attained by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating patterns, limiting calorie intake, and doing regular physical activity. Many people, however, are not able to make these healthy lifestyle changes. Almost two-thirds of adults and one-third of adolescents are overweight or obese in the United States. Many of the overweight or obese individuals seek dietary supplements to lose weight. Around 10% of American men and 21% of American women have used a weight-loss supplement at some point in their lives.

Various diet pills, prescription weight-loss drugs, and appetite suppressants are available in the market in the form of tablets, capsules, powders, bars, and liquids. However, the knowledge regarding their efficacy is limited. Weight loss supplements, however, have the potential to cause physical harm. They can also interact with many medications. This may cause several side effects or a reduction in the effectiveness of the medication.

How do weight loss medications work?

Weight loss medications may act through any or more of the various mechanisms:

  • Reducing appetite, for example, phentermine (Adipex-P, Ionamin, Pro-Fast)
  • Increasing satiety, for example, liraglutide (Saxenda)
  • Preventing absorption of fats from the gut, for example, orlistat (Alli, Xenical)
  • Certain combination drugs work by increasing satiety and altering the food taste, such as phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Certain combination drugs work by altering brain chemicals, such as naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)

Who should take weight loss medications?

Experts suggest that long-term weight loss can be safely attained by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating patterns, limiting caloric intake, and doing regular physical activity. Individuals who have health problems related to obesity are the candidates for weight loss medications. You must consult your doctor before taking any medications for weight loss. Your doctor will examine you before prescribing the medications and may also assess whether

  • There will be any possible benefits of weight loss.
  • The medication has any side effects.
  • You have any health issues.
  • You are on any other medications.
  • You have any significant medical history in the family.
  • The medication-cost will be acceptable for you.

You must always tell your doctor about your medical history and any possible drug allergies you may have. You must also discuss it with your doctor if you already take any medicines or supplements (even if they are herbal or natural). Certain medicines may not be appropriate for you if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant soon.

Weight-loss medications are generally prescribed in adults who:

  • Have a BMI of 30 Kg/m2 or more.


Since lifestyle modifications, such as a healthy diet and exercise, are the best approach for weight loss; every overweight or obese individual does not need these medications. Adopting a healthy lifestyle not only helps reduce weight but also takes care of other associated issues, such as eating disorders or problems with sleep.

Can weight loss medications be given to teens and children?

Most of the weight loss medications approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are only for adults. The weight loss medication Orlistat, however, is approved to use in children ages 12 years and older.

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