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The Risks and Effectivity of Appetite Suppressants

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Mar 09, 2022

The Risks and Effectivity of Appetite Suppressants

One of the major health problems worldwide is obesity. Even in developed countries, rates of obesity are particularly high because there aren’t really any effective pharmacological interventions for it until recently. But over time, medicine has evolved to devise ways for hunger to be curbed and to signal to the brain that the stomach has had enough. The way this is done is through an appetite suppressant, which often comes in the form of diet pills or weight loss medications.

An appetite suppressant works by targeting the brain and either suppressing the signal to eat or releasing the signal for fullness. These pills can control hunger pangs. They can make you feel full despite not having eaten a lot of calories to facilitate an easier caloric deficit and more convenient weight loss mechanism.

Appetite Suppressant: Does it work?

Studies have shown that those who combine an appetite suppressant with transitioning to a healthier lifestyle can lose between 2 and 10% of their starting weight within the first year. Diet pills and appetite suppressants allow people to jumpstart their weight loss journey. They can also have good effects on their progress even beyond the duration of the treatment.

An appetite suppressant affects how and when your brain recognizes when you’ve eaten enough. It starts by creating it as an artificial response to taking the pill. Eventually, your body learns to take cues with the caloric deficit that you’ve introduced and makes it much easier to handle certain activities at a lower caloric supply.

This is very helpful for people with excess weight. And despite a regaining of weight being common, its jumpstarting effect allows for room to integrate increased physical activity and healthier diets into one’s routine.

appetite suppressant

Appetite Suppressant: Is it safe?

The FDA has approved several drugs for a duration of, at most, three months. These include:

  • liraglutide (Saxenda)
  • naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)
  • orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • phentermine-topiramine (Osymia)
  • semaglutide (Wegovy)
  • setmelanotide (IMCIVREE)

Some of these have been approved for use against diabetes and other diseases recommending weight regulation as a course of treatment.

If within those three months, you’ve lost weight with no side effects, there may be some types that you can be put on indefinitely. But, under strict medical supervision. The risks are very minimal and the chances of appetite suppressants causing liver damage are incredibly low.

However, it is always necessary to consult with a doctor, especially in the event of jaundice or any sign of liver damage.

Can they manage obesity?

Appetite suppressants can definitely manage obesity.

Since they’ve been approved, healthcare providers prescribe these to people with:

  • a body mass index (BMI) higher than 27 
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • a history of high blood pressure

Science shows us that it’s effective in reducing appetite and making it less likely for someone to be on a caloric surplus by reducing food intake.

Ongoing clinical trials have also shown that they are effective over long periods to help pre-empt weight regain.

appetite suppressant

Are there risks involved?

This treatment might not be good for those on anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs because of potential interactions.

Appetite suppressants could also be unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. They may also worsen certain health conditions for those with a history of heart or liver diseases.

Like most treatments, there are possible side effects. It’s best for you to discuss the side effects to expect and the risks involved with your doctor since these vary from person to person. Some common side effects are constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, and sleep problems.

Key Takeaway

In general, it’s important to follow the advice of a healthcare professional when it comes to weight management. Whether it’s a doctor or a nurse or a nutritionist, make sure to share current medication and your other concerns. Only buy your medication from reputable pharmacies or distributors approved by your doctor.

It’s important to remember that weight management medication is meant to support and jumpstart your journey to a healthier lifestyle. These are not meant to be a pass or excuse unhealthy habits.

In the end, the most sustainable treatment for any weight management issues comes from within and these medications are merely tools to help you along the way.

Learn more about preventing and managing obesity here.


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

Expertly reviewed by

Chris Icamen

Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Mar 09, 2022

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