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How do diet pills work?

Diet pills cover a wide range of medications or dietary supplements that can support your weight loss. What exactly are diet pills? Do they require a prescription, or can I buy them over the counter? Who can these medical weight loss pills help?

Azeem Yussouf
Azeem Yussouf
Medical doctor
How do diet pills work?

How do diet pills work, and what alternatives are there?

The market for slimming products is ever-growing and, unfortunately, an uncontrolled area. The label ‘diet pills’ is highly popular and can refer to many things. You can get ‘diet pills’ over the counter; often, there are also stronger, prescription-only versions of the over-the-counter medication, which you would need to be prescribed by your doctor. There are also nutritional supplements that promise you weight loss with the help of ingredients such as herbs and certain vitamins.

These medications often catch your eye by their selling points, ‘weight loss medication’, ‘fat burning pills’, ‘obesity medication’ and ‘slimming pills’, and what they all have in common is that you only lose weight and maintain this weight loss if you combine the medication with a healthy lifestyle.

What are diet pills?

Diet pills cover a wide range of medications or dietary supplements that can support your weight loss. Some are pills with an appetite-suppressing effect, and others can increase your combustion of energy. And while some of them have a proven effect, you can also find pills that promise weight loss, but have questionable effects.

Diet pills from online pharmacies

If you bought diet pills abroad, you know to be careful, so why think differently when purchasing online? It’s often a common misconception that buying diet pills online can be safe. It’s more than likely that the pills available online haven’t been rigorously tested and researched like those you can get through prescription. In the best case, these pills will do nothing. In the worst case, the ingredients used as ‘slimming agents’ will have some side effects.

Always double-check with your doctor or local pharmacist before buying diet pills online.

How do diet pills work?

Diet pills work by either increasing the feeling of satiety, inhibiting the absorption of fat in the intestine, or increasing fat burning. Some types of weight loss medication can have multiple effects, and new weight loss medications are constantly being developed based on research, new technology and new knowledge.

Not all types of weight loss medications are available in pill form. Some types are liquid, and you can take them by injection through a pen with a small needle - just like diabetes patients.

The three types of slimming medications are:

1- Slimming medication that increases the feeling of satiety

Medicines that mimic the body’s satiety hormone; when you eat, the hormone called GLP-1 is released in your gut and tells your brain that you are full. When you use this type of medication, you achieve the same effects - it lowers your appetite and makes you feel full faster.

This medication helps you achieve and maintain weight loss.

2- Slimming medication that inhibits fat absorption

With the help of enzymes, some of the fat from the food you have eaten is not absorbed in the intestine, which stops it from being stored in any area of the body. Instead, it is excreted in your stool. Whilst on this medication, you often have to eat a very low-fat diet.

On average, you may lose around 2-3kg in a year with the help of this kind of medication.

3- Slimming medication that increases combustion

Use of active substances, such as amfepramone, your appetite is lowered and your metabolism is increased. However, some of these substances can create addiction problems.

Can you lose weight with diet pills?

Whether diet pills work for you will depend on the lifestyle you lead whilst taking them - and if you stick to the healthy habits afterwards.

Do you exercise and eat healthily? You can’t expect to lose weight simply by taking diet pills alone. Or by taking any other type of weight loss medication, for that matter.

Weight loss medication can be a support when you want to lose weight. It can get your weight loss started and motivate you to keep going until you reach your goals.

But diet pills or any other weight loss medication - whether over-the-counter or prescribed by your doctor- can never stand alone.

A lasting weight loss requires you to lead a healthy lifestyle.

If you want to achieve effective weight loss with medication, research shows that a combination of exercise and medication works twice as well as either medication or exercise alone.

However, the studies were not conducted with the diet pills you get over the counter but with prescription GLP-1a medication.

So, whilst diet pills may work, you can’t expect rapid weight loss until you also change your lifestyle.

Alternative to diet pills

Whilst diet pills promise you quick and effective weight loss, and have done for decades, current research has shown that there are new possibilities and avenues for anti-obesity drugs.

New weight loss medication, like the GLP-1 medication that uses semaglutide and liraglutide, mimic your body’s normal hormones. When you eat, your gut naturally releases hormones that make you feel full. When you get help for medical weight loss with medications that contain either semaglutide or liraglutide, your brain registers a feeling of fullness and in turn you feel the need to eat less. The medication regulates your appetite and makes you feel full between meals.

Originally, this type of medication was developed to treat diabetes, and it has been used in the UK for that purpose for the last decade. It was after this, that researchers discovered the treatment also led to weight loss. Many studies have been conducted on whether the medication can be used to treat severe obesity, and today there are several GLP-1a drugs that are approved for use in weight loss.

At Embla, we use GLP-1a medication as part of the program for many of our members. To get effective and long-lasting results, the medication must always be used as part of a healthy diet and exercise program - as a member at Embla, your coach supports and guides you on making healthy changes to what you eat and how you move your body, and gives you effective mental tools to help reach your goals.

Can I get diet pills on prescription?

Yes, some diet pills are prescribed. If you receive weight loss medication through your doctor, it is a treatment known as ‘medical weight loss’. However, there are some requirements you must meet in order to receive this medication.

How do I get prescribed diet pills or other weight loss medication?

To be prescribed medication for obesity you must have a BMI over 30.

If you are suitable for medical weight loss, you can get the prescription written out by your own GP. If you are a member of Embla, our doctor prescribes weight loss medication for you, whilst your coach follows you throughout the process, so we make sure you get the right mental tools to reach your goals - and importantly, you stick to your new, healthy lifestyle afterwards.

In this article
Azeem Yussouf
Azeem Yussouf
Medical doctor

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