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Understanding Diet Pills

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 21 Jan 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Diet Pills Ingredients Side Effects Body

Diet pills often seem like a dream come true, a way to lose weight without having to change anything about your lifestyle. The most commonly advertised diet pills are over the counter and don't need a prescription to purchase, but most haven’t been proven very effective. Understanding common ingredients in diet pills, how diet pills work and potential side effects of diet pills will help you make more informed decisions about these products in the future.

Common Ingredients in Diet Pills

Reading the ingredients list on any diet pill you consider will allow you to better understand how the pills will affect your body. Once you identify the “active ingredient” you’ll be better able to guess how that particular pill is meant to help you lose weight. Common ingredients in over the counter diet pills include:
  • Chitosan. Made from chitin, present in the shells of shellfish like lobsters and crabs.
  • Chromium. A trace mineral.
  • CLA. Fatty acid from sunflowers or sunflower oil.
  • DHEA. Hormone secreted by the adrenal gland.
  • Ephedra. Also called Ma Huang. Usually combined with caffeine.
  • Green tea extract. Derived from green tea leaves.
  • Guar gum. From the husk of guar seeds.
  • Guarana. Caffeine alkoloid (group of naturally occurring chemical compounds).
  • Hydrocitric acid (HCA). From extracts of rare fruits.
  • Psyllium. Soluble fibre. Laxative (stimulates bowel movements).
  • Pyruvate. Chemical compound.
  • Yohimbine. Alkoloid in the bark of the yohimbe tree (of West Africa).

How Diet Pills Work

Diet pills do not all work in the same way. The ingredients list will be your best clues about what the pills will actually be doing once you ingest them. All diet pills disrupt your body in some way, so knowing how pills are supposed to work is important to knowing what they will be doing to your body. Most over the counter diet pills will either:
  • Increase your metabolism/burn more calories (ephedra, chromium, CLA, guarana, yohimbine).
  • Make you feel full so you don’t want to eat any more (ephedra, guar gum and psyllium).
  • Black fat from being absorbed (chitosan/chitin).
  • Slow fat production (hydrocitric acid and green tea extract).
  • Promote muscle growth to burn fat (CLA, DHEA).

Side Effects of Diet Pills

Unfortunately there are many potential side effects of diet pills, and some can even become very dangerous to your health if you ignore them. Remember, these pills produce side effects because they interfere with the natural processes of your body so they should not be laughed off or assume to be nothing serious. Particular side effects depend upon the ingredients of specific pills, but common physical side effects include:
  • Cramping, gas and/or loose bowel movements (particularly with fat blockers)
  • Reduced absorption of vitamins and minerals (particularly with fat blockers)
  • Increased blood pressure (associated with suppressed appetite)
  • Increased heart rate (associated with increased metabolism, appetite suppressed appetite)
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia or other interrupted sleep patterns
  • Constipation, inability to have a bowel movement

Diet pills are not magical solutions to weight loss problems, but they are items which should be taken seriously given that they interfere with your body’s normal processes. Knowing the relevant ingredients, how pills will work on your body and common side effects of diet pills is important to keeping yourself safe.

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