Why? Because weight loss drugs are incredibly profitable. So profitable, in fact, that the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) reports that over $300 million was spent on the weight loss drug, dexfenfluramine, in 1996 (a drug that was later withdrawn by the Food and Drug Administration).
If this much is being spent on a drug that doesn't even work, how much are we spending on all the other pills, diet books and exercise machines in an attempt to shed the pounds?
So how exactly do weight loss drugs work? Weight loss is only achieved by decreasing your caloric intake while increasing your caloric burn; the traditional method is to follow a regulated diet program built around nutritious, low calorie, low-fat foods and plenty of physical activity. Weight loss drugs promise to mimic the end result, just without the hunger and sweat associated with dieting and working out.
Weight loss drugs act in three basic ways:
They speed up your metabolism, which makes your body burn more calories. Amphetamines and stimulants such as caffeine (which also acts as an appetite suppressant) and the now-illegal ephedra speed up your heart rate and increase your blood pressure, all of which raise your body temperature and burn more calories. These weight loss drugs are risky because they can cause or aggravate hypertension and heart disease. Although they may cause an initial weight loss of ten to 20 pounds, they become less effective after a few weeks and the weight is regained.
They lower your appetite, which reduces the number of calories you ingest. Appetite suppressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and chemical blockers inhibit the hunger signals in your brain. Weight loss drugs that increase the serotonin in your brain can lower your levels of depression, stress and anxiety; all of which are factors that lead to overeating. Side effects include headaches and dizziness.
They work within your body to prevent it from digesting calories. This includes laxatives, 'herbal preparations' and fat absorption inhibitors. Laxatives and herbs can cause diarrhea and if taken often enough, will cause the intestines to expel partially digested food, thus lowering the number of calories that are ingested. Fat absorption inhibitors are weight loss drugs that prevent the body from absorbing fat; lipase inhibitors deal specifically with lipase, an enzyme that digests fat. Side effects include cramping, flatulence and diarrhea; frequent diarrhea is the No. 1 cause of dehydration, a condition that can quickly become serious.
Weight loss drugs have to be used in cycles, just like bodybuilders who pursue steroid use. If the medicine is used for longer than three months their effectiveness decreases and the risk of problems and side effects increases. Consult your physician before taking any substance designed to help you lose weight.