How to Compare Weight Loss Supplements

With all the weight loss products available, it can be hard to decide which one is best for you. That is why we need to compare weight loss supplement products carefully before buying them. It's not enough to just compare weight loss supplement products by brand. Compare them based on how they work, their side effects (if any), how fast they work, and their prices. Here is a simple guide to help you out.

Prescription weight loss supplements

You can compare weight loss supplement products based on whether you can buy them with or without a prescription. Prescription weight loss supplements are usually given to obese patients who need more potent medications. Obese patients are those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, although a BMI of 27 may require the same medication if the patient has a high risk of heart disease or other complications. Prescription drugs are also given to those who are having a hard time losing weight, even with proper diet and regular exercise. These drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Effectiveness may vary from person to person, but most users lose around 5% to 10% of their original weight.

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Another way to compare weight loss supplement products is by the way they work. The two most common types are appetite suppressants and fat blockers. Almost all prescription weight loss supplements work as appetite suppressants, except for Orlistat (Xenical). Approved by the FDA in 1999 as an anti-obesity drug, it works by inhibiting the lipase enzyme responsible for breaking down dietary fat in the body. Xenical can decrease the body's fat absorption by up to 30%. However, it comes with minor side effects, such as cramping, flatulence, intestinal discomfort, oily stools, and diarrhea.


Another popular weight loss supplement is Meridia. Unlike Xenical, it is an appetite suppressant, so it works in a completely different manner. It received approval from the FDA in 1997 and works by increasing brain chemicals believed to help reduce one's appetite.

Despite its FDA approval, however, Meridia has been linked to increased heart rate and blood pressure. It should not be used by those with hypertension , heart disease, irregular heartbeat, and congenital heart problems. Other side effects include insomnia, dry mouth, constipation, and headaches.

Short-term supplements

You can also compare weight loss supplement products based on how long you can use them. Some anti-obesity drugs are prescribed by doctors, but approved by the FDA only for limited and short-term use. Examples are Desoxyn (methamphetamine), Bontril (phendimetrazine tartrate), Adipex-P (phentermine), and Ionamin. These drugs are restricted because of their potential side effects. They should not be used by people who have high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, or an over-active thyroid gland. Since they are "speedy," they are only approved for a maximum of three weeks.

Over-the-counter weight loss supplements

Some products are available over the counter, with no prescription needed. When you compare weight loss supplement products of this type, be sure to look at their ingredients, supposed benefits, and potential side effects. Most OTC weight loss supplements contain phenylpropanolamine as their main active ingredient.

The phenylpropanolamine scare

Phenylpropanolamine is also used as a nasal decongestant. However, studies have found evidence that it increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding in the brain. Because of this, the FDA has requested the drug's manufacturers to stop selling products containing the ingredient. The FDA has also warned consumers through a public health advisory in November 2000 to stop buying and using such products.

Unproven claims

Since the FDA does not strictly regulate supplements, many weight loss product manufacturers make false claims about their products. You never know when a promising product will turn out to be a fake or contain something harmful to your health.

Be especially careful of products with the labels "natural" or "herbal." These terms do not necessarily guarantee safety. Not all herbal ingredients are safe; in fact, some may even be dangerous for people with existing medical conditions. If you are unsure about a product, check with your doctor first and do a little research on your own. Learn which ingredients to look out for and which ones to avoid. Remember, labels don't tell you everything, so always get a second opinion.

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