Clinical weight loss medication is usually prescribed to people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30 (27 if accompanied by health-threatening conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure). Your BMI is a body fat ratio calculated on your height and weight; use the online calculator from the National Institutes of Health (at nhlbisupport.com) or follow this simple formula to find yours: take your weight (in kilograms) and divide that number by your height (in meters) squared. A thorough evaluation by a medical practitioner will determine whether or not you fit the requirements.
Not only do you have to classify as overweight or obese, but your body has to be able to handle the strain of such strong medication. Heart disease, high blood pressure and other medical conditions greatly reduce your chances of receiving doctor prescribed weight loss medication.
The three common types of clinical weight loss medication;
1. Stimulants are used to boost the metabolism and suppress your appetite; these include amphetamines such as phentermine, methamphetamine and anorectic drugs.
Amphetamines are FDA approved drugs that speed your heart rate and raise your blood pressure, causing the body to burn more calories. They should not be used if you have a history of hypertension, heart disease or glaucoma and can cause you to become jittery or unable to focus. Although stimulants can cause weight loss of 10 to 20 pounds, they rarely work beyond a few weeks and the weight will most probably return.
2. Medication that affects the chemicals in your brain usually work on serotonin levels; these are the 'feel good' chemicals that, when low, can contribute to stress, unhappiness and depression, all factors that lead to overeating.
One drug that doesn't affect serotonin levels is sibutramine, an FDA approved medication that is taken orally. Sibutramine affects the natural chemicals in your brain that regulate your appetite; these chemicals are responsible for transmitting the satiated feeling of 'full.' Sibutramine encourages them to flow and act in the brain, preventing your appetite from returning for a longer period of time after eating. Sibutramine is harmful to those who suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heartbeat; side effects include dry mouth, constipation, headache and insomnia.
3. Fat absorption inhibitors such as fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine prevent the intestinal system from absorbing fat. Fenfluramine, used in conjunction with the stimulant phentermine, was widely prescribed throughout the mid-1990s for treatment of obesity. After findings surfaced that the combination led to hypertension and valvular heart disease, the FDA requested that manufacturers pull it off the market.
Lipase inhibitors (orlistat) interfere with lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fat for use and absorption by the body. If the fat is prevented from breaking down, it cannot be absorbed and thus fewer calories are soaked up by the body. The fat that is not broken down is expelled from the body (often in the form of diarrhea) leading to side effects such as cramping, flatulence and leakage.
Always consult your physician before investing in any weight loss medication.