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Are Diet Pills Safe: Quick Weight Loss or Just a Trick?

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jan 21, 2021

    Are Diet Pills Safe: Quick Weight Loss or Just a Trick?

    In today’s world, the goal is to have anything in an instant. From message sending to food delivery, faster is always better. Unfortunately, the emphasis on speed and convenience (as well as other changes to modern living) has caused many people to become less active. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are more prevalent today as opposed to a decade ago. To make matters worse, social media and advertisements are constantly pressuring people to be thin and fit. Because everyone wants things fast, it is no wonder that diet pills and quick weight loss products have become so popular. But are diet pills safe?

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    What are diet pills?

    Diet pills and supplements are usually available as capsules. Other diet aids include drink mix powders and bottled liquids. They should be taken by mouth, either while fasted or with meals. Because diet pills are food supplements, they are not always FDA-approved.

    Popular ingredients in non-prescription diet pills:

    Black pepper extract (piperine)

    Cayenne pepper (capsaicin)


  • Green tea extract
  • Green coffee bean extract
  • Ginseng
  • Yohimbine
  • Maca root
  • Enzymes
  • Berry ketones
  • Zero-calorie sweeteners
  • Laxatives
  • Diuretics
  • Are diet pills safe?

    In general, food supplements are safe in moderation. Depending on the formulation, a diet pill can help boost your metabolism and lose weight faster. However, it is important to note that diet pills are meant to be an add-on to a healthy diet and exercise program.

    Firstly, many diet pills have proprietary formulas. These are mixtures of ingredients without their corresponding amounts. The label may highlight fat-burning ingredients like green tea extract, but it may only be trace amounts.

    Secondly, the weight lost is usually water weight. Initially, losing several pounds in the first few weeks can be motivating. However, this is only temporary. Fat loss and muscle tone can only come from diet and exercise. As a result, people are unhappy with diet pills because they are ineffective, rather than unsafe.

    Aside from many diet pills not having FDA-approval, there are potentially dangerous ingredients found in some diet and weight loss products. Some known examples include:

    • Sibutramine and desmethylsibutramine
    • Ephedra and ephedrine (ma huang)
    • Phenolphthalein
    • Methylhexanamine or DMAA
    • Paynantheine and mitragynine

    Unfortunately, the drug label will likely exclude these substances. Therefore, this makes unregistered products potentially dangerous and illegal. It is best to trust only FDA-registered products from reputable brands.

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    What about prescription diet pills?

    Additionally, there are prescription-only weight loss pills. When diet and exercise are not enough, these drugs can help. These weight loss drugs do not contain the same ingredients as typical diet pills. The main way that these drugs work is by blocking fat absorption in the digestive tract.

    Therefore, only a licensed doctor can determine if you are suitable for prescription diet pills. Like all drugs, these still have potential side effects.

    Key takeaways

    In conclusion, diet pills are safe only when taken as directed. Do not fall for false advertisements that claim you can lose weight only using a certain product without diet or exercise. In addition, it is important to drink plenty of water while using supplements and exercising. If you are looking to lose a lot of weight, talk to a doctor and licensed dietician to create the right plan for you.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


    Updated Jan 21, 2021

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