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Choosing the Best Weight Loss Supplement

written by: bjlbyron • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 5/23/2011

Weight loss supplements are becoming increasingly popular. However, there are many to choose from and the average consumer can find it difficult to select one that is best for her. Here is a summary of the best weight loss supplements.

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    A Word About Weight Loss Supplements In General

    Before discussing the best weight loss supplements, it is important to note that there are many weight loss prescriptions available, some of which require a prescription and others of which are available over-the-counter. Unfortunately, not all the available weight loss supplements are effective and worse, some are extremely dangerous. Some weight loss supplements that have been deemed dangerous or otherwise possibly unsafe (and therefore, should not be taken) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include:

    • Bitter orange
    • Country mallow (heartleaf)
    • Ephedra
    • Sibutramine (Meridia)

    However, a few weight loss supplements, which are described below, have been determined to be effective and reasonably safe for most people. It is cautioned that due to their potentially serious side effects, these supplements are only meant for the very obese, and should not be taken those who are "just looking to drop a few pounds". Further, although these supplements will work, to a certain extent, on their own, they are best used in conjunction with a well-planned exercise regimen.

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    Phentermine

    Phentermine is available in both tablet and extended-released capsule forms and helps some people lose weight by causing appetite suppression and making these individuals feel full longer. Typically, it is taken either once in the morning or three times each day (once before each meal). Most people who are prescribed phentermine take it for 3-12 weeks, assuming that they do not respond adversely to it.

    Common side effects, which can be severe, include dry mouth, unpleasant taste, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, tremor, and shortness of breath.

    Phentermine is marketed under the following brand names:

    • Adipex-P
    • Atti Plex P
    • Ionamin
    • Kraftobese
    • Panshape M
    • Phentercot
    • Phentride
    • Pro-Fast
    • Raphtre
    • Supramine
    • Tara-8
    • Termaine
    • Termene
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    Diethylproprion

    Diethylpropion is a prescribed appetite suppressant that is to be taken only for a short period of time (up to about one month). Diethylpropion is offered in regular tablets that are consumed three times each day and also in a once-daily extended-release form. Commonly experienced side effects include all the ones listed for phentermine above, and also increased or painful urination. A drawback to diethylpropion is that it can obscure the symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Therefore, careful attention should be paid to changes in blood sugar tests while taking this weight loss supplement. Diethylpropion is marketed under the brand names Durad, Tenuate, and Tepanil.

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    Orlistat

    Orlistat, which works by preventing fat absorption from occurring in the intestines, comes in both prescription and non-prescription form. Orlistat is useful both in people who are trying to lose weight and in people who have lost weight and are trying to avoid gaining it back. Further, orlistat often is the drug of choice for obese people who also suffer from high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. People who are prescribed orlistat for weight loss also usually are given a strict, low-fat diet to follow by their doctor, as even one high-fat meal can induce troublesome side effects. Such side effects include, but are not limited to:

    • Gas
    • Sudden urge to have a bowel movement
    • Loose stools
    • Inability to control bowel movements
    • Stomach ache
    • Menstrual problems
    • Anxiety
    • Headaches

    More serious side effects include:

    • Skin problems, such as hives, itching, and rash
    • Breathing and swallowing difficulties
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Yellowing of the eyes
    • Discoloration of urine and/or stool

    Further, it has been suggested that orlistat may cause liver damage in some people. These claims are still being investigated, however. You should discuss this possibility with your doctor if you have a history of liver problems or are otherwise concerned about the possibility that orlistat may affect your liver.

    Common orlistat brand names include Alli and Xenical.

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    A Final Word

    In addition to the weight loss supplements described above, a few other supplements are thought to have some potential benefit for weight loss. These supplements include pyruvate, conjugated linoleic acid, and Irvingia gabonensis. As the benefits of these supplements remain unproven, however, it is best to first try one of the supplements described above.

    This article is only meant to provide some basic information regarding how to choose the best weight loss supplement for you. It is not meant to replace the good advice of your doctor. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you discuss your choice of a weight loss supplement with your doctor before you begin using it.

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    References

    A.M. Egras et al., An Evidence-Based Review Of Fat Modifying Supplemental Weight Loss Products, Journal of Obesity (2010). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931392/?tool=pubmed

    Mayo Clinic, Over-The-Counter Weight Loss Pills: Do They Work? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/hq01160

    National Center For Biotechnology Information, Diethylproprion: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000552

    National Center For Biotechnology Information, Orlistat: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000175

    National Center For Biotechnology Information, Phentermine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000605

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Tips For The Savvy Supplement User: Making Informed Decisions And Evaluating Information. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/ConsumerInformation/ucm110567.htm