Ultimate Guide To Diet Pills
Almost every day, supplement companies announce new 'miracle' weight loss supplements in the form of dieting pills promising desired dreams in no time at acceptable prices. Such marketing campaigns are well organized and thoroughly prepared with only one goal - to make money for those companies.
Having said that, are those companies really evil, are those pills worthless, or is there some truth in claims that those pills actually work?!
Published: October 18, 2023.
Note: this is a serious 3000+ word article, not a coloring book. If you want to believe in miracle supplements, it's up to you. But, if you want to know what is going on 'under the hood,' feel free to continue ...
Small Preface To Dieting Pills
Here are our opinions, based on common sense, based on what we have learned over the years, and what can be found on/off-line on a daily basis - please read Disclaimer.
And in the end, if you disagree with us, feel free to send us a comment (via e-mail, for example). Also, there are several sites where you can read what science studies say about dieting pills and their compounds and, after all, what other people say about them - those three sites are, of course, Yahoo, Google, and Bing.
What are dieting pills?
Dieting pills are supplements in tablet/pill/capsule form with several ingredients inside. One should use them according to the recommendations - usually, one consumes 1-2 pills a few times per day, often before meals. Of course, nobody should be taking any of these before consulting her/his doctor - better safe than sorry!
There are several ways dieting pills act (or should act!) in the human body - most of them use at least two methods in trying to help users lose their excess fat.
Dieting Pills: Appetite Killers
These pills have compounds that send (or are supposed to do that) signals to the brain that we are not hungry, and there is no need to eat.
Such pills enable us to eat less or even to skip entire meals - after all, if we want to lose weight, we simply have to burn MORE calories than we consume.
The good thing is that these pills actually can help in postponing the next meal and/or helping us eat smaller meals.
On the other hand, such pills can lead to elevated blood pressure and can cause tremors, muscle cramps, and similar. Longer usage can even lead to bulimia and anorexia - but for such adverse effects, doses of active ingredients must usually be much higher than that they are present in recommended doses.
After all, supplements companies don't want to get sued, so most of these supplements have a long list of who shouldn't consume them.
Energy pills are stimulants that try to accelerate human metabolism and thus increase energy consumption.
Some of them are often advertised as 'just one pill spends more energy than 30 minutes of running' - have you ever tried to run 30 minutes at a decent tempo? You were probably breathing rather hard and sweating all over.
If that pill burns so many calories, then we need oxygen to burn them, right? Have you ever seen somebody taking such pills and breathing as if that person is running? Or at least walking at a faster pace?
Of course, this is a simplification, but it emphasizes one of the problems with these pills.
One of the areas in which these pills are good is helping us stay focused and energetic while being hungry. This is very important since feeling weak, lightheaded, and sleepy is one of the symptoms of hunger.
The most used compound is ordinary caffeine, which can be found in coffee, green tea, and other similar beverages. Also, other extracts are used - the more exotic it sounds, the better (at least for achieving a high price on the market). One should be very careful about the amounts - read the labels.
People sensitive to caffeine can benefit from caffeine pills since they will provide them with a decent energy kick and help them stay focused. Even 50mg of caffeine can help such people stay focused and avoid eating due to feeling weak and sleeping.
Caffeine is present in various forms, but it is often available in doses between 70 and 200mg, although there are pills with even higher caffeine doses per serving.
The problem with other compounds is that they are present in very small amounts - also milligrams - and the required doses for any significant effects are much higher.
So, can these pills provide energy burst and help one lose some fat? Yes, they can. Problems are relatively high required doses (except caffeine and some other compounds) and low available doses.
Also, these pills really increase heart rate, increase blood pressure and can cause jitters, tremors, muscle cramps, etc., much more than appetite killers - 'great' for heart attack or at least panic attack.
Seriously - you have been warned. Consult your doctor before taking such supplements!
Note: some brands even offer caffeine in powdered form - this is a big NO since it is very hard to weigh it accurately at required doses.
Macronutrient blockers are a type of dieting pills that enable a person to eat 'cheat meals' without properly digesting eaten meals.
These pills can be divided into carbohydrate blockers, fat blockers, or a combination of the two.
Usually, it is recommended to consume a certain amount of pills before, during, and after the meal to prevent a certain amount of carbs and/or fats from being properly digested.
Great, right? Not so fast ... Carb blocker pills block good (complex) and bad (simple) carbs, and they interfere with the proper absorption of certain minerals and water-soluble vitamins.
Fat blockers can't distinguish between good and bad fats, and they also prevent fat-soluble vitamin absorption.
Note on fats: The human body needs around one-third of polyunsaturated fats, one-third of monounsaturated fats, and one-third of saturated fats - so, fats are not 'bad', even saturated ones. Their problems are amounts and ratios in modern cuisine!
Dieting Pills Ingredients
Dieting pills contain many compounds for various reasons. To impress potential buyers, those names should sound exotic, scientific (full or shortened chemical formulas, etc.), and even popular.
L-Carnitine is 3-Hydroxy-4-Trimethylazaniumyl-Butanoate (also written in several other variations), C7H15NO3, an ammonium compound synthesized from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine.
L-carnitine takes part in numerous metabolic processes in the body and includes (among many other things) an important role in fatty acid metabolism.
Normal human nutrition provides somewhere between 100 and 200mg of carnitine daily, while a vegan diet provides at most 1-5mg of carnitine per day.
But, as said before, carnitine is produced in the human body primarily in the liver and kidneys from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine, and it is very hard (but really very hard) for carnitine deficiency to occur.
On the other hand, carnitine is marketed as a fat loss supplement and often sold in pills and even ampules containing up to, or even more, than 2g per single dose.
How efficient is it? If you have carnitine deficiency, then you can benefit from taking it, but in that case, I would worry more about your kidneys and liver and not so much about losing fat using carnitine ...
Fortunately, it is a rather cheap supplement, and if you like to waste some of your money, go on. :)
P.S. Many people swear in carnitine efficiency. Personally, I tried it on several occasions, and the effect is practically zero. Also, I am an omnivore, eating a balanced diet, often combined with carb cycling due to my age (at writing this article, I am 50+).
Raspberry ketone is a compound responsible for the aroma of red raspberries and occurs in various fruits, including raspberries, cranberries, and blackberries, to name just a few.
Depending on the variety of raspberries, growing conditions, and other factors, extraction of pure raspberry ketone is usually 1–4 mg per kg of raspberries. So, to get the 'usual' dose of 100mg of raspberry ketone, one should eat between 25 and 100kg of raspberries per day.
Fortunately, raspberry ketone has been used as a chemical additive in perfumes and cosmetics for a long time, and it is rather easily produced artificially - with the price of pure raspberry ketone being a few dollars for a pound.
Now, if you have time, you can search for studies regarding raspberry ketone effects - yes, those studies do exist, and they show that raspberry ketone really helps in 'destroying' fat in fat cells or they changed fat metabolism in rats and prevent their weight increase when fed with a high-fat diet.
Well, if you do the research properly, you will find out that those studies involved live mice fat cells in test tubes and mice that were fed with huge doses of raspberry ketone.
For example, the average daily intake of raspberry ketone through normal nutrition is around 0.25 to, at most, 1mg/kg/day - individuals taking supplements usually have their intake between 2-5 mg/kg/day. Early studies on mice used doses around 100mg/kg, and those studies that showed weight prevention in rats used up to 20g/kg of raspberry ketone - that means that a 100kg guy should consume 2kg (4.4 pounds) of raspberry ketone to achieve the same effect.
Raspberry ketone reviews - miracle weight loss or scam? Are raspberry ketones the secret to quick weight loss? Just eat your berries, fresh, preferably from your garden ...
Note: here are two PubMed.gov articles to check (both open in the new window):
- Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone
- Raspberry Ketone Protects Rats Fed High-Fat Diets Against Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis
Needless to say anything more ... Don't trust me? Forget various TV doctors and use your own brain and search, read, and try to understand(!) what you have read...
Also, feel free to search for l-carnitine, raspberry ketone, resveratrol, and other compounds often found on labels of dieting pills, look for 'double-blind' studies, and read carefully what they say!
Resveratrol is a phenol compound produced naturally by several plants when injured or when the plant is under attack by pathogens such as fungi and bacteria.
If you search around scientific studies about resveratrol, you will find not even a single serious study proving that this compound helps fight cancer, helps fight heart diseases, that it accelerates metabolism (or does anything similar) in order to speed fat loss, etc. All studies that show its effects were done on mice, yeast, and similar objects.
Note: we are talking about double-blind studies done in a controlled environment, with participants being closely monitored...
If you find studies on humans that prove positive effects on fat loss, please send me an email.
This is just one another 'might' and 'can' compound found in dieting pills.
Note: there are tests about oral consumption of resveratrol - drinking red wine. The resulting increase in plasma resveratrol after drinking 600 ml of red wine on an empty stomach was negligible (resveratrol increase was found only in 2 out of 5 subjects - the increase was below 2.5ng/ml), but if you do need volunteers for such test, I will volunteer - I will even make a barbeque :)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is a type of vinegar that contains acetic and malic acids - and this is one of the compounds that actually can help in fat loss.
One of the methods that apple cider vinegar can help in fat loss is appetite suppression - so feel free to add it to your salads and other similar meals. There aren't direct studies to prove or disprove this theory.
However, there are studies showing that consuming apple cider vinegar without changing other life habits (consumed calories, physical activity) can lead to fat loss.
In one double-blind experiment, three groups of people were consuming 30ml, 15ml, and 0ml of apple cider vinegar for 12 weeks. Their weight loss was 1.7kg for the 30ml and 1.2kg for the 15ml group - so consuming apple cider vinegar MIGHT help in reducing body weight.
Amounts of this compound vary from supplement to supplement, but it is rather low when compared with doses used in studies.
Also, this compound is very acidic - in concentrated form it can even cause acid burns. Longer effects on bone health, bone calcification, and similar are still unclear.
IMHO, feel free to use it as a salad dressing. If you find it in dieting pills, those few 100mg of this compound would not make a significant change.
Kelp is a large seaweed - algae - and it has many potential benefits for human health.
Some kelp species are edible - they can be consumed as a side dish in many meals with or without other seafood.
Edible kelp is rich in iodine and many other minerals and vitamins. It is also rich in fibers and when consumed as food, it is very fulfilling and keeps one satiated for longer periods of time.
But, a few 100mg of kelp or kelp extract can have rather limited effects on the human body and its metabolism.
Caffeine is powerful thermogenic even in lower doses. It can be found in many plants and beverages like coffee, green tea, guarana and similar.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, even a 50mg dose will give you a nice energy boost. 200mg will kick even heavy coffee users, and 400mg will help you achieve PR (personal record) in any athletic event. :)
So, caffeine can help you function even on low-calorie diets and can help you stay focused and do your daily duties.
On the other hand, it can cause elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, can cause jitters, tremors etc. It is a nice energy supplement, but be very careful - elevated blood pressure and heart rate can cause a heart attack. And if you are obese or have other health issues, be very careful about caffeine intake.
IMHO, caffeine must be part of any serious fat loss supplement, but ...
Green Tea and Green Tea Extract
Green tea is made from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis plant, which have undergone minimal oxidation during processing.
Green tea does not accelerate metabolism enough to produce immediate weight loss, but it has been shown that green tea and green tea extract containing polyphenols and caffeine induce thermogenesis and stimulate fat oxidation.
This energy boost and increased metabolic rate (around 4-5%) was without or with minimal increased heart rate.
So, if you want to do yourself something good, have a cup of green tea without sugar (nasty, but one gets used to it rather easily).
If you are not a morning person, have a cup of green tea early in the morning to help you wake up faster.
Green tea extract is part of many dieting pills, but there is no 'standardized' green tea extract - 400mg of green tea extract on a label can be a lot, but it can also be nothing.
Green Coffee Bean Extract
A green coffee bean extract is an extract of unroasted green coffee beans.
The efficiency and mechanism of green coffee bean extract action have been the subject of controversy. There is tentative evidence of various health benefits, but the quality of the evidence is poor - meaning there are no independent double-blind studies on a large enough number of participants over a longer period of time.
Long story short - it contains, among other compounds, caffeine. It will provide you with some increase in energy. How much depends on your caffeine sensitivity and the amount of available caffeine.
(Other) Plants Extracts in General
Extracts from various plants can contain beneficial compounds in various amounts and ratios: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, caffeine, etc. How effective they are is questionable for various reasons, such as:
- a type of original plant,
- how was that plant grown,
- how extract was processed,
- how supplement was stored, etc.
Such extracts can help, but again, at what amounts? I don't know about you, but I will rather have a bowl of mixed berries for a snack, instead of some 'miracle' supplement that promises everlasting youth because it is based on berries! :)
Water soluble vitamins are often present in dieting pills, especially vitamin B complex, with amounts of B-12 going up to 5000% (50x) RDA. These vitamins are important since they take part in energy processes in organisms. Any excess is easily removed from the body; just be sure to drink plenty of water.
Dieting pills also contain other compounds that supposedly help humans shed off unwanted excess fat without changing in eating and working out habits, but if it is too good to be true, then it's probably not ...
What are Nootropics?
Imagine your brain is like a computer. Now, consider nootropics as the "software updates" or "performance-enhancing tools" for this computer. They're substances that can help boost your brain's performance.
What are they?
Nootropics, often referred to as "smart drugs" or "cognitive enhancers," are drugs, supplements, or other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.
Why are they taken?
- Enhanced Memory and Learning: Students might take them to help with studying.
- Improved Focus: For those who get easily distracted or need to concentrate on tasks for prolonged periods.
- Mood and Motivation: Some nootropics may uplift your mood or increase your motivation to tackle tasks.
- Anti-Aging and Neuroprotection: Some people take them in the hopes of maintaining brain health as they age.
How are they taken?
Nootropics can come in various forms, including:
- Pills and Capsules: These are the most common forms.
- Powders: Some prefer to mix nootropic powders in drinks.
- Natural Sources: Foods and herbs like fish (omega-3 fatty acids), turmeric, and ginkgo biloba.
- Caffeine: Yes, your morning coffee! It's a natural stimulant most people use.
- L-Theanine: Found in tea, it's known for promoting relaxation without drowsiness.
- Modafinil: A prescription drug for narcolepsy but used off-label as a cognitive enhancer.
- Racetams: A family of synthetic nootropics like Piracetam.
- Adaptogens: Natural herbs like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola that help your body adapt to stress.
Nootropics Considerations and Safety
- Not Magic Pills: While there are anecdotal reports of nootropics working wonders, scientific evidence varies. Not every nootropic will work for everyone.
- Side Effects: Some can have side effects or cause allergic reactions. It's essential to do your research and perhaps consult a medical professional.
- Interactions: If you're on medication, always check if a nootropic might interact adversely with it.
- Regulation: Many nootropics aren't regulated by authorities like the FDA. This means quality and efficacy can vary between brands.
As one can see, nootropics are intriguing, and many people swear by their benefits. But as with any substance you put into your body, it's essential to be cautious, well-informed, and consult with professionals when in doubt.
For short, I like my green tea regularly, and I put apple cider vinegar in my salads. Occasionally, a little bit of guarana to push myself slightly more...
Real Food vs. Dieting Pills
If you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. That is very simple, yet so many people have issues with weight.
When trying to lose weight, one has to eat more often, 4-6 meals per day, but those meals must be tailored to individual needs, requirements, habits, etc.
For example, a simple strawberry raspberry smoothie containing 100g of strawberries, 100g of raspberries, and 200g of low-cottage cheese contains, on average, 25-26g of protein, 17-18g net carbs, ~5g of fats, and 8-9g of fibers, with a total of 210-220 calories.
And it is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Such a smoothie can keep an adult satiated for a few hours easily, even when not on a diet.
Now, do you want to take pills or eat/drink such food? I am all in for food.
Few Final Words
If you want to lose weight, eat, sleep, train, repeat - it is as simple as that:
- Sleeping: sleep at least 7-8 hours per day. It is a daunting task to eat 400-800 calories less than you need and to be sleepy because of lack of sleep.
- Working Out: combine weighted exercises with cardio workouts, especially walking - walking will help you burn tons of calories without overstressing the muscles and joints, while the weights will remind your body that muscles are needed.
- Eating: eat a balanced and varied diet consisting of at least 4-5 meals per day.
If you are new to dieting, working out, and similar, consult a nutritionist to make you a daily meal plan. Also, before starting to work out and diet, consult your doctor and do some checks, including blood pressure, blood tests, ECG (Electrocardiogram), etc.
Better safe than sorry...