As of today, the obesity epidemic affects approximately 115 million individuals worldwide. This demand has propelled the use of chronic weight loss medications, which assist in mitigating health concerns and improving quality of life. In the US alone, over 15% of adults are prescribed pills to help with losing weight. Even though this shows how relatively common they are nowadays, there are still a handful of myths and misconceptions among the general public.
To avoid misinformation, here are five things you should know about weight loss medication.
They’re different from supplements
It’s common for people to mistake diet supplements as similar to weight loss medications. However, some differences set them apart, namely their availability and safety. Unlike weight loss medications, diet supplements can typically be purchased over the counter at any drugstore. They are usually advertised as quick fixes or lone solutions for losing weight, but not all have clinical proof. Though some of them do end up being recommended by healthcare experts, most of these supplements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is the organization that dictates whether a new product is safe for public use.
They are effective
On the other hand, weight loss medications have undergone the FDA’s thorough testing. Apart from safety, they also conduct trials to validate efficacy. The FDA stamp of approval confirms the answer to the question, “do weight loss pills work?” Furthermore, research has proven that these medications can help individuals lose up to 15% of their starting weight within the first six months of treatment. Though seemingly a modest reduction, losing this amount can significantly decrease the number of health risks that an obese patient may face, like diabetes or heart disease. This is because these medications target the complex factors behind obesity outside of diet, either by suppressing the appetite or inhibiting the body from absorbing too much fat from food.
They come with side effects
Considering these contributions to weight loss, it may come as a surprise that most of these medications were originally intended to address other health conditions. Due to this, they tend to come with side effects. For example, Liraglutide works by speeding up the rate of weight loss, but its original purpose as an anti-diabetic causes some users to experience constipation and nausea. Naltrexone-Bupropion, one of the most common weight loss prescriptions, is an appetite suppressant, but it was initially meant to treat mood disorders like depression. Consequently, consumers report experiencing mood shifts, among other side effects.
They need prescription
The complicated nature of these medications is the reason why they can only be acquired with a prescription. An attending physician needs to evaluate an individual’s lifestyle and diet before determining what medication to prescribe. These drugs work in different ways, requiring different administration methods and varying time periods. Some can be used long-term, but some can only be taken for weeks. A doctor should be present throughout the process since these pills should be paired with a recommended clinical lifestyle program to truly be effective. Most importantly, not everyone is qualified to take these medications, and it’s a physician’s job to determine whether an individual is.
They require eligibility
This brings us to our last fact. When it comes to medicinal weight loss, it’s important to remember that these medications don’t exist just to help someone shed a few pounds. They are prescribed because a person’s weight presents health risks that may harm their well-being. Therefore, the health industry follows a system that determines whether someone is obese and should receive a medical intervention. As a basis, medical professionals use the body mass index (BMI) scale, which can be measured by comparing height and weight. A person with a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese and is permitted to use medication. In special cases, an individual with a BMI of 27-29.9 would only be overweight, but having preexisting weight-related conditions would also make them eligible for weight loss pills.
These facts show that weight loss medications are complex, clinical drugs. If you’re interested in taking them, it’s always best to research and consult a physician.