Diet Pill Dilemma: Bye Belly Flab, Hello Heart Attack

We all know that obesity is associated with a reduced life expectancy and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other ailments. While diet and exercise may help some people slim down, many also look to weight-loss drugs for assistance. A recent study looked at the effectiveness and safety of controlled doses of phentermine and topiramate on overweight individuals.  Although these drugs come with minor side effects, research shows that the weight loss benefits may be worth the risk.

In the study, overweight adults with two or more additional risk factors (hypertension, dyslipidaemia, diabetes or prediabetes, or abdominal obesity) were randomly assigned to a placebo or either a high or low dose of phentermine with topiramate. All drugs were administered orally in one of 93 testing centers, and all of the subjects were put on a diet and exercise plan while taking these drugs.

After about a year, the placebo group lost only 3 pounds on average. On the other hand, the people who took phentermine with topiramate were much more successful. The group who took the smaller dosage lost an average of nearly 18 pounds, while the higher dosage group lost more than 22 pounds.

Taking topiramate and phentermine did not come without side effects, however. Diet drugs have caused many problems and the FDA has been cracking down on weight loss pills. The most common side effects reported in this study were dry mouth, paraesthesia (tingling or numbness of the skin), constipation, insomnia, dizziness, and dysguesia (distorted sense of taste). Adverse events related to anxiety and depression were also reported. It is well known that the appetite suppressant phentermine, causes heart problems, including racing heart rhythms, palpitations, insomnia and leaky heart valves have been reported after prolonged use.

Anyone who has struggled with dieting knows that losing weight and keeping it off is not an easy task. Not surprisingly, many people turn to dieting drugs hoping for a “magic pill” to help them lose weight and keep it off.  Another study from scientists at the University of Liverpool shows that most anti-obesity drugs do not yield long-term results because the medications don’t target emotional issues that affect a person’s appetite. If you are looking to lose weight fast, pills are probably not the answer.

Nonetheless, the overall health benefits might be worthwhile for some for a short period of time. Never take any of these pills without talking with your doctor. Keep in mind these drugs were shown to be effective when combined with lifestyle interventions. A weight loss drug may help, but you still have to eat your vegetables and exercise.

Also check out this article about weight loss “supplements.” A recent study discovered the presence of a wide variety of illicit and unlabeled weight-reducing agents in over-the-counter weight loss products.

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