As we saw with the Dr. Oz scandal, there’s a lot of false advertising taking advantage of Americans, which has one of the most overweight populations in the world. Weight loss and diet supplements are unregulated by the FDA, so it’s always hard to separate the helpful from the harmful. When talking about diet pills with FDA approval, there are only a handful that have passed inspection.
For weight loss pills to get FDA approval, they have to have gone through rigorous testing to be deemed ‘safe.’ The weight loss aids must also show that more than 35 percent of people in trials lost more than 5 percent of their body weight. The trial group must also lose twice the amount that the placebo (or control) loses. There are only four diet pills on the market with FDA approval, and three of them are prescription.
But always remember, like with all medication, that even FDA-approved drugs can come with some serious side effects. Your doctor will take into account a variety of factors before prescribing a diet pill, including BMI, other health issues you may have, and your weight loss and diet history.
FDA-Approved Diet Pills
1. Orlistat, sold as Xenical
This pill, approved for people over 12 years old, blocks fat absorption in your body. It eliminates the blocked fat and ‘flushes’ it out through the bowel.
Possible side effects: gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, oily spotting
Alli is over-the counter, and is the lower dosage version of Xenical (about half the strength).
Side effects are similar to Xenical (above). Alli was recently recalled, as there was evidence that some batches were tampered with.
3. Lorcaserin, sold as Belviq
Belviq, recently approved in 2012, works on the part of the brain that controls hunger. This helps to control your appetite and fell full quicker.
Possible side effects: headaches, dizziness, nausea, constipation, dry mouth.
4. Phentermine-topiramate, sold as Qsymia
Qsymia was also approved by the FDA in 2012, and is a combination of two drugs (an appetite suppressant and migraine medication). Qsymia suppresses your appetite and makes food less appealing.
Possible side effects: Dizziness, significant taste alterations, tingling of extremities, constipation, dry mouth, sleep problems. May cause birth defects, CANNOT be taken while pregnant.