Magic pills for weight loss - the only thing getting thinner is the purse

Swallow some pills and the pounds start dropping - that is a dream. In reality a treatment with drugs alone is not all that effective.

The internet search engines offer millions of entries for the word "diet pill". But it is curious that there are very few approved drugs that are supposed to help losing weight. The wide offer shows how big the market and demand are in this field. There are countless dietary supplements or "natural" mixtures that are not subject to approval that are being purchased over the internet. Almost always those substances are dubious, sometimes even harmful.

Swallow some pills and the pound start dropping - that is a dream. In reality a treatment with drugs alone is not all that effective. Drugs can only support the weight loss and lead to first successes in very hard cases. That helps to keep up the motivation. Different studies wer able to show that the additional weight loss by drugs amounts to only a few kilos. If you want to lose weight permanently you have to change lifestyle and eating habits. People who consume the same amount of food after a successful weight reduction as before will soon regain their lost weight - in most cases even some additional pounds. That is because the body tries to protect itself before the next "hunger crisis". Among the substances that are supposed to help with the weight loss are appetite suppressants, fat blockers or binders and bulking agents. Prof. Matthias Blüher treats adipose patients that come to the adiposity outpatient clinic of the IFB to Leipzig. He warns that those "weight loss helpers" are mostly without effect or only support a short term weight loss.

Appetite suppressants oppresses hunger feelings
They promote the release of the messengers serotonin and noradrenalin in the brain and by that oppress the hunger feelings. Appetite suppressants often cause side effects such as rising pulse and blood pressure and can be addictive in the long term. As a result of those frequent and strong side effects in long term use the substance Rimonabant (Acomplia®) was taken off the market. Also Sibutramin (Reductil®) was withdrawn by producer Sanofi Aventis 2008 because of the accumulation of depression and increased tendency for suicide in patients all over Europe. Since January 2010 the license for all sibutramin-containing substances in Germany is resting due to those massive side effects.

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the appetite suppressant Lorcaserin (Belviq™) that also influences the serotonin balance on June 27th 2012 for the USA. It is produced by Arena Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland. The weight loss past the diet effect is supposed to be around 3 to 4 percent of the body weight according to the producer statement. The Suisse producer aims for an approval in the EU. The most common side effects are head ache, dizziness and nausea, but not, like for other substances of this group depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide.

Fatblockers help to excrete fats undigested
The agent Orlistat (Xenical®, Alli®) suppresses the fission of dietary fats in the bowel. The capsules therefore have to be taken with a fatty meal. Around one third of those fats will then be excreted unchanged. Side effects such as flatulence, diarrhea or ill-smelling fat feces are a possibility. Orlistat can also disturb the ingestion of liposoluble vitamins A, D and E. The producer therefore recommends to take a vitamin product in case of a long term treatment. Other products act as fatbinders, e.g. fibres of polyglucosamiones (substance from crustacean shell, market name Formoline L112) that can be baught prescription free in the pharmacy is binding a part of the dierary fats so that they are excreted undigested. With these products the number of kilos lost in addition to the diet is a single diget number.

Bulking agents in the stomach simulate fullness
Bulking agents help overeight people to lose weight by filling the stomach without adding calories to the body. Before every meal you would take one pill in order to be satiated more quickly during the meal. The products that are made of alginates, collagen or cellulose are highly swellable and soak in the stomach like a sponge. They act strictly mechanically, are not digested and are fully excreted after the bowel passage. The side effects - if applied correctly - are minimal. Therefore bulking agents are not a drug but only a medical product. However, it needs to be considered that, especially with products containing cellulose you have to ingest lots of fluids since otherwise you'd run the risk of intestinal obstruction. Cellulose bulking agents are therefore only available with prescription.

Dangerous mixtures from the internet store
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by now warns against more than 70 adulterated slimming aids. Stiftung Warentest took a closer look at 16 different slimming aids in 2007. The result was horrifying: most of the products contained appetite suppressants that are no longer approved such as Sibutramin, the stimulant Ephedrin often in combination with caffeine. Often there can also be found amphetamines in those "medicaments".

In other countries the admission of diet medication is sometimes less strict. In figure concious Brasil for example a drug with those substances (Fenproporex) is allowed that the FDA and the EU have forbidden. Fenproporex displays many side effects such as high blood pressure, fastening heart beat, palpitations, dysrhythmia, fear, insomnia, heart and chest pain, strong inner agitation until psychosis. Also known are the high addiction potential and an increased suicide risk. The composition and the possible side effects of internet products are declared inadequately or not at all. Those drugs are dangerous, especially for overweight people who already have a tarnished heart.

The pressure to loose weight leads to taking wonder pills
Among the often mentioned in advertisment that are supposed to help with losing weight are tangle and algas, carmellose, guar, karaya, topinambur, citrus fibre, chitosan, enzymes, birch leaves, nettle, restharrow, garden bean pods, olive leaves, ortosiphon leaves, juniper berry, horsetail, ephedra weed, guarana, Paraguay tea, Pu Ehr tea, vinegar, bio flavonoids, bifidus cultures, ginseng, ginger, kombucha, linol acid and sunflower oil, vitamins and mineral nutrients.
Often the natural substances are declared safe but especially effective. But tests have shown that they are useless and sometimes even compromise the health. The dose of the ingredients are either not dosed effectively or too low. Those substances may even be dangerous when they have not-admitted substances such as sibutramin mixed into them. The doctors in the IFB adiposity outpatient clinics for children and juveniles as well as for adults do not recommend any of those drugs.

Doris Gabel

Keywords: obesity treatment, nutrition & diets