SolveYourProblem Article Series: Weight Loss & Dieting
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Diet Pills: What Are the Different Types Available?

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on diet pills. This article will objectively examine what diet pills are, and whether or not they work.

Three basic types of diet pills exist:

  • Appetite Suppressants;
  • Fat Burners;
  • and Fat Binders.

Appetite Suppressants

Appetite suppressant were designed around the belief that the cause of a person’s weight problem is their insatiable hunger. Many people believe that if they only knew when to stop eating, they could lose weight; but since they always feel hungry, they just keep on eating to try and quell the feeling. Enter the appetite suppressant, built for that very purpose, to quell the feeling. Appetite suppressants suppress the psychological motivation for eating.

Fat Burners

The functions of fat burning diet pills are twofold: they act on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain associated with regulating appetite (similar in this function to the way the appetite suppressants work), and they release certain chemicals into the brain that trigger the Fight or Flight mechanism, otherwise known as the Stress Response. In this latter function, the body is triggered to prepare itself for action, as might happen in the wild should prey sense a predator nearby. This stress-response requires the body to burn more calories and, thus, triggers the body to burn up whatever calories it has at a faster rate, even whilst at a state of rest.

Fat Binders

Fat binders function by binding the fats that are inside the stomach, thereby preventing the body from digesting and absorbing them. Instead of adding the extra fat to the body’s weight, then, the binded fat in the stomach is eliminated as waste. A commonly-heard nickname for fat binders is “fat magnets.”

Purportedly, fat binders contribute not only to weight loss but to lower cholesterol levels as well, though in truth the amount of chitosan (the active ingredient responsible for the effect) in fat binders is too small to have any but a negligible effect on cholesterol levels. Therefore, fat binders should not be considered as a viable alternative to a lower cholesterol diet and, in cases, other cholesterol lowering drugs your doctor can prescribe.

Those are the three different functions of diet pills. Regardless of function, diet pills also come in three different forms.

1. By prescription – Prescription diet pills are attainable only with a doctor’s prescription and, presumably, under that doctor’s regular monitoring and care. These are heavily regulated by the US FDA. Prescription diet pills are meant for use by individuals who are greater than 30% overweight, and are intended to be used on a short-term basis, generally fewer than six months, and are not advisable at all for people under the age of 16. A person can lose as much as 10% of their body weight on prescription pills.

2. Over-the-counter – A prescription is not needed to purchase these, and they are widely available at drug stores, supermarkets, and discount stores. They are also monitored by the FDA.

3. Herbal – Herbal diet pills are rarely regulated at all as the US FDA considers them more of a food than a drug, with little if any medical benefit at all.


The use of diet pills to lose weight presents a whole host of problems. Some are regulated and some are not, though rarely does the consumer know or understand which is which, nor why it matters. Many more people use diet pills improperly, without proper supervision or against recommendations to the contrary. In this consumer-centric landscape of ours, when everything we need and want are at our virtually immediate disposal, we’re conditioned to buy and consume first, ask questions later. But some of these questions could have dire answers.

People’s bodies often become tolerant to the effects of diet pills and they starting putting on more weight again. Often this will cause a person to take more of the drug or take it longer than recommended. All pills can have mild to severe side effects, for example:

  • Appetite suppressants, which contain stimulants like caffeine, can raise the blood pressure and heart rate, resulting in an increased risk of heart attack or heart disease;
  • Fat blockers can cause painful gas and diarrhea;

Whether you use diet pills to lose weight or not, all effective weight loss programs require the incorporation of a healthy diet and regular exercise into your daily life.

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