Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

The Truth About Diet Pills

1) Ephedra

  • Alias - Ma Huang, Ephedrine, The "E" in ECA Stacks
  • The Claim - Weight loss aid, exercise in a bottle, athletic performance enhancer, energizer
  • Likely Hangouts - Xenadrine, Metabolife, Metab-Rx, Dextrim Natural, Ultra Diet Pep, Ripped Force, etc.
  • The Crimes - May cause nausea, dizziness, shakiness, brain damage, cardiac rhythm disorders, and death
  • The Bottom Line - Ephedra is an amphetamine like herb which increases your chances of irregular heartbeat, heart attack, high blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, psychosis, delirium, seizures, coma, and death.  The desired increase in metabolism is only temporary.  Your body will become accustomed to the level of ephedra and require greater and greater amounts of the herb to achieve the same desired effects.  By taking increased amounts of ephedra, the risk of unwanted side effects (such as death) are multiplied.  And should you decide to ever stop taking the ephedra, your metabolism will drop most likely to a lower level than you were at prior to taking the "herbal wonder".

2)  Phenylpropanolamine

  • Alias - PPA
  • The Claim - Appetite suppressant, metabolic enhancer
  • Likely Hangouts - Dexatrim Regular, Accutrim, formerly commonly used in cold pills
  • The Crimes - Dramatic increase of the risk factors of stroke, particularly in women ages 18-49.  Government studies have affirmed that PPA may be responsible for several hundred hemorrhagic strokes that have stricken people under the age of 50
  • The Bottom Line - In November of 2000, the FDA banned the use of PPA in all over-the-counter products due to studies linking PPA to strokes.

3)  Carnitine

  • Alias - L-Carnitine
  • The Claim - Fat burner, weight loss aid
  • Likely Hangouts - Ripped Fuel, Carni Fuel, Hydroxycut
  • The Crimes - Total rip off.  No evidence to show that carnitine reduces body fat.
  • The Bottom Line - Does not burn or assist in the burning of fat.  Carnitine is an amino acid compound that aids in the transport of fatty acids to the muscle to be burned for energy. We receive more than 50% of our daily needs of carnitine from our food.  The remainder is synthesized by our bodies.  Additional carnitine supplementation does nothing.

 4)  Chitosan 

  • The Claim - Traps fat from your food and flushes it out of your body.  Eat all the fried and high-fat foods you want without worrying about your weight because chitosan blocks the fat from being absorbed.
  • Likely Hangouts - Fat Trapper, Fat Burner
  • The Crimes - Scam, major exaggeration
  • The Bottom Line - Chitosan is a fiber-like material made from the shells of lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.  It binds only a tiny tiny amount of fat - not enough to help with weight loss.  No significant fat blocking ability or weight loss aid.

5)  Chromium Picolinate

  • The Claim - Melts away fat
  • Likely Hangout - Sold by itself as a mineral supplement or in combination with some of the other suspects
  • The Crimes - Can cause liver and kidney damage if taken in excess, possible link to cancer
  • The Bottom Line - Chromium is an essential mineral needed in very small amounts to aid in the metabolism of carbohydrates and dietary fat and for regulation of blood sugar levels.  The only time chromium supplements would be of any help nutritionally would be if one was deficient in the mineral.  Chromium is found in a wide variety of foods and the amount required by the body is so small that deficiencies are very rare.  No additional benefit, in regard to weight loss or otherwise, has been proven in taking chromium supplements.

6)  Laxatives

  • The Claim - Moves the food out of the body before it can be fully digested thereby promoting weight loss
  • Likely Hangout - Correctol, Ex-Lax, Dieter's Tea
  • The Crimes - Constipation (ironic, eh?), electrolyte imbalances, swelling of the extremities, permanent impairment of the colon (read: the inability to poop normally forever), bone calcium loss, low blood pressure, severe dehydration, dizziness, cardiac arrhythmias, heart attack, renal failure, death
  • The Bottom Line - Laxatives are not a means for controlling weight.  They act on the large intestine where the solid material found there has already been fully digested and all the calories have already been absorbed.  Any weight loss that occurs from using laxatives is due to dehydration - fluid loss not food or fat loss.  And once the laxatives are discontinued, 5-15 lbs of rebound water retention is likely to occur due to the severe dehydration caused by laxative abuse.  Let's go over that again.  1) No calories are lost by using laxatives  2) It can cause a lot of medical complications  3) Once you stop using laxatives you'll retain a lot of water  4) You risk not being able to go to the bathroom normally again (perhaps you'll even get to wear an ever so fashionable colostomy bag).

7)  Diuretics

  • The Claim - Quick way to lose weight, Lose excess water weight, no more bloating
  • Likely Hangouts - Aqua Ban, Diurex
  • The Crimes - Severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, cardiac arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, renal failure, death
  • The Bottom Line - Diuretics only work to increase the urine output.  Only fluids are lost, not any real weight.  And once you drink anything, you'll be replacing the water weight lost.  Like laxatives, there are many serious medical complications that can occur due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances caused by the use of diuretics.  


Printer-friendly format