NOV 07, 2015 9:40 AM PST

The Reality and Future of Weight Loss Pills

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Our society is obsessed with health. We want to feel good and look healthy, but most of us are less inclined have to actually work for it. That's why weight loss pills are so enticing, requiring minimal effort to burn fat. But what is the scientific reality of these diet pills?

Weight loss supplements abound in just about any drugstore and supermarket nowadays. Because they are not regulated by the FDA, these supplements are able to make vague and wondrous claims about melting away fat. It is probably no surprise to most people that nearly all of these supplements are, quite simply, bogus. The one mild exception is green tea, which modestly affects weight loss via the synergistic actions of caffeine and catechins.

What about current prescription weight loss meds? It turns out the effects of prescribed appetite suppressants and fat blockers are indeed better than the over-the-counter supplements, but only moderately. Whatever weight lost from these drugs are mostly short-lived as our bodies adjust to the chemicals or the side effects get in the way.

But there is still hope for achieving a healthy bod without sacrificing any bacon! Researchers are now concentrating on ways to increase mitochondria production to boost cellular metabolism, and ways to convert white fat-storing cells into brown fat-busting cells. Several compounds are already in development, but the scientists are still working on balancing efficacy and toxicity.

While the future research looks promising, it will probably take another 10 years before the drugs are market-ready. In the mean time, the old adage of diet and exercise remains the best form of weight loss medicine.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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