There are several different drugs used for weight loss. Unless specifically instructed by a doctor, people should use non-drug methods for losing weight. Except under rare circumstances, pregnant or nursing women should never take diet medications of any sort, including herbal and over-the-counter remedies. While weight loss drugs in general have shown some benefit, the overall weight loss achieved is generally limited. In addition, people will usually regain the weight when they discontinue the medication.
Over-the-Counter Weight Loss Products and Herbal Remedies
About 7% of American adults use nonprescription weight-loss products. People must be cautious when using any weight-loss medications, including over-the counter diet pills and herbal remedies. Buying unverified products over the Internet can be particularly dangerous.
Green Tea. Some studies have suggested that regular tea drinking is associated with lower weight, particularly in people who drink it for years. However, better evidence is needed to confirm the results on this supplement.
Thermogenic Approach to Weight Loss. An approach to weight loss called thermogenic (or hepatothermic) therapy is based on the claim that certain natural compounds have properties that enable the liver to increase energy in cells and stimulate metabolism. Theoretically, the result would be fat loss. Among the substances used in such products are EPA-rich fish oil, sesamin, hydroxycitrate, pantethine, L-carnitine, pyruvate, aloe vera, aspartate, chromium, coenzyme Q10, green tea polyphenols, aloe vera, DHEA derivatives, cilostazol, diazoxide, and fibrate drugs.
Nearly all the current over-the-counter dietary aids contain some combination of these ingredients. There is no evidence that any of these ingredients can produce weight loss, and some may even have harmful effects.
Chromium is a common ingredient in many diet supplements (such as Xenadrine, Dexatrim, Acutrim Natural, and Twinlab Diet Fuel). It is claimed to specifically promote fat loss, rather than lean muscle loss. Some evidence suggests that niacin-bound chromium may improve insulin sensitivity. On the negative side, animal studies have suggested that chromium may have damaging effects on genetic materials in cells. In theory, this could increase the risk of cancer.
Review Date: 04/14/2010
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital (4/14/2010).