The popularity of weight loss drugs and supplements are on the rise, but according to the first federal guidelines for the treatment for weight loss and obesity, about 55 percent of adult Americans, or 97 million people, are either overweight or obese.
Quick-fix diets, pharmaceuticals, and even “natural” weight loss formulations don’t promote good eating habits because they are not a life-long plan. “When you talk to me, we’re talking the 90-year plan,” says Houston-based nutritionist Anne Dubner, R.D., L.D.” You need to establish eating patterns that work long-term, and incorporate foods that stimulate the body’s metabolism and thus allow you to lose, and maintain, body weight.”
Do Weight Loss Drugs Work?
Health care professionals, whose specialize in weight loss, find that many people do not want to learn anything about diet, they just want to take a pill and lose weight. However, when they went discontinued their drug they gained the weight back. “I do not recommend weight loss drugs. I’m sure they work, but they are temporary.” If weight loss drugs are used they should be a part of a dietary/lifestyle modification approach. “See a dietician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, if necessary.” Weight loss drugs and/or herbal stimulants can serve as a jump start for an individual who is significantly overweight, or someone who has to lose weight before undergoing surgery.
Both Fen-phen and Redux were found to cause damage to heart valves and were taken off the market in 1997. The newly hyped weight loss drug, Meridia, released last April, acts on serotonin and norepinephrine, another brain chemical to make users feel full, like Fen-Phen and Redux, but not in the same way. Researchers at Knoll Pharmaceutical, who produce Meridia (sibutramine), say Meridia works on two neurotransmitters instead of just on serotonin.
What’s coming down the road in the way of weight loss drugs? Orlistat, which will be marketed as Xenical, received FDA advisory committee approval in May of 1997, but Hoffmann-La Roche, its manufacturer, has decided to do more analysis before releasing it for final approval. Orlistat is a lipase inhibitor, which means it works on lipase, an intestinal enzyme that breaks down fat. Xenical cuts fat absorption in the intestine by about 30 percent.
None of the weight loss drugs on the market now, or any that might be available in the future, are going to solve the problem of excess weight. And serious health effects were found with the drugs that have been removed from the market.
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD