Family Health: Getting the skinny on diet pills

FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- You see the ads on TV and the web. So-called "Magic" pills that claim to trim your waistline. Is this a weight loss shortcut or a fantasy?

Kajal Zalvadia, MD of Inova Fair Oaks Hospital says you have to do your homework before deciding to try an over-the-counter weight loss pill.

Dr. Zalvadia says, "They all claim to do different things. Some of them claim to suppress the appetite, some of them claim not to absorb as much fat from what it is that they are taking in from your diet."

They also have varying side effects from higher blood pressure to nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, and vomiting.

"They are not put through the same rigorous testing or regulation that prescription medications are. So as far as proof of effectiveness or safety, that is limited," adds Dr. Zalvadia.

Prescription drugs like Belviq and Xenical also work differently. Belviq curbs your appetite while Xenical blocks your body from absorbing a certain amount of fat.

Dr. Zalvadia says, "The FDA has clearly defined just how long we can put people on those medications." The adverse reactions, drug interactions, and effectiveness are clearly stated.

The internet is filled with ads for diet pills. Experts warn these sites can be filled with scams and fake products.

A statement from the American Herbal Products Association:

Dietary supplements sold in the U.S. are subject to a host of laws and regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal agencies to ensure what is on the label is what is in the product. However, a few drug-spiked products are sometimes illegally marketed and sold as dietary supplements. It is important to note that products adulterated with drugs are not dietary supplements and those who knowingly manufacture, market and sell these illegal products are operating outside the law. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the regulated supplement industry supports full enforcement of current laws and regulations to remove drugs masquerading as dietary supplements from the marketplace.

The federal government and regulated supplement industry are working to raise awareness about drug-spiked products masquerading as supplements. For example, AHPA alerts consumers to illegal products masquerading as dietary supplements through its website efforts appear to be having an impact as consumers are becoming savvier about the products they purchase. Consumers are increasingly concerned about safety, efficacy and quality and are more likely to read labels and scrutinize ingredients and manufacturers in order to purchase products manufactured in compliance with all current supplement regulations.AHPA also strongly encourages consumers to notify their doctors about any herbal supplements they take to maximize benefits and minimize potential risks.

AHPA also strongly encourages consumers to notify their doctors about any herbal supplements they take to maximize benefits and minimize potential risks.

Dr. Zalvadia says, "There is no such thing as a "magic pill", you really do have to institute those lifestyle changes from a dietary standpoint, from an exercise standpoint. You won't have successful outcomes or results without putting those into place.

When thinking about using a new weight loss pill or supplement, you should always consult your physician.


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