The Obesity Battle Continues

Obesity is one of the biggest health epidemics of our generation.  It has become “normal” for people to be overweight; in fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults in the United States are obese.

Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and respiratory disorders. The risk of developing these diseases is even higher when weight is concentrated near the waist in the form of “belly fat.”

Despite continuing research on obesity, and a multitude of advertisements to the contrary, there are no medications, herbs, diet aids or diet pills that can help you lose a significant amount of weight without proper diet and exercise, and all the diet pills have some side effects. The only way to lose weight and improve your health is to reduce the number of calories, increase the nutritional content of the food you are eating and increase your activity level. These actions improve your health in many ways — in addition to helping you lose weight.

What Conditions Accompany Obesity?

Obesity in itself is not the only health problem for those who struggle with their weight.  Obesity has been linked to several medical conditions including:

  • High cholesterol, including high triglyceride levels
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Sleep apnea, or episodes when a person stops breathing while asleep
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gallstones
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Asthma

Clearly, it is very important for those who are battling obesity or overweight conditions to lose weight safely and sensibly.  However, that may be easier said than done.

What About Diet Pills And Diet Aids?

Many people believe that there must be a “magic pill” that leads to weight loss.  This belief is spurred on by advertisements that promise easy weight loss by just “taking this pill.”  However, the reality is that all diet pills have side effects and some can be dangerous.

Here are some of the most common weight loss ingredients found in diet pills and their effects on the body:

Carnitine is a substance that helps the body utilize fat for energy. Sounds great….but hold on…Carnitine is made in the liver and kidneys and stored in the skeletal muscles, heart, brain, and sperm.  Your body normally makes all it needs, but some people lack enough carnitine or do not eat the right foods to produce this important substance.  Carnitine deficiency may be linked to angina or intermittent claudication, or may be caused by some medications.

A well-balanced diet that includes red meat, particularly lamb, as well as dairy products, fish, poultry, asparagus, wheat, peanut butter and avocados can help increase carnitine levels to a normal level with out the use of diet pills that contain this ingredient.  In fact, most people have more than they need due to a diet rich in meats and fats.

Before taking any carnitine diet aid, patients should talk to their doctors.  This is especially important if you have:

  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • History of seizures

You should also talk to your doctor before taking carnitine if you take thyroid medication, AZT, Depakote or Accutane. Carnitine can actually make your thyroid prescription less effective. Thyroid medication is what helps to regulate your thyroid levels that determine your metabolism and effect your health in many ways. Please, please talk to your doctor prior to adding carnation diet aids to your weight loss strategy!

Green Tea Extract

Green Tea can help with sugar and fat metabolism by decreasing excess triglyceride production, a key component in fighting fat.  Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols which have been shown to reduce trigylcerides and fat content in the body. Once again, this sounds great…but hold on….

The amount of help your metabolism receives from green tea is very small.  Studies have shown that green tea accelerates the metabolism by only four percent. If we do the math that equates to 40 calories for every 1000 calories consumedper day for the average person.  This is roughly equivalent to a little less than a 1/2 of a large apple.  Clearly, drinking large amounts of green tea is not the best road to permanent weight loss.  However, drinking green tea does give your body other health benefits with the polyphenols. Polyphenols have recently been termed “lifespan essentials”and actively work in the body to prevent cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases.


Caffeine is a stimulant and a mild diuretic.  As such, it may increase your metabolism by four to five percent and may cause you to lose some water weight.  However, this is not enough to account for significant weight loss. Once again if we do the math, we are looking at 40-50 extra calories burned for every 1000 calories consumed in an average person.

Moreover, most diet aids that have caffeine contain between 75 and 300 mg of caffeine, which is about the equivalent of a large cup of coffee from a coffee house.  These supplements, therefore, provide little more caffeine than your average coffee drinker consumes in a day anyway!  I drink at least 8 to 12 ounces of coffee per day, so by the marketing claims for caffeine as a diet aid I should be a “skinny Minnie.”

There are also side effects and risks of consuming too much caffeine, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Heart Palpitations

People who consume too many energy drinks and caffeine diet aids may show symptoms of caffeine intoxication, including:

  • Seizures
  • Mania
  • Stroke
  • And Even Sudden Death

Chromium Picolinate

Companies all over the world are advertising chromium picolinate as an appetite suppressant and fat burner.  Supposedly, chromium picolinate helps preserve lean muscle mass and stimulates the metabolism as well as reducing cravings for sweets by maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Once again sounds great…hold on…..

People who use this product have experienced skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, mood changes, and impaired thinking, judgment, and coordination. High doses have been possibly linked to more serious side effects including blood disorder, liver or kidney damage.Finally, there are no reliable studies that suggest that taking chromium picolinate results in serious weight loss.

What Should I Do?

The fact is that you simply cannot take diet pills and diet aids to counteract poor eating and exercise habits. Diet aids should always be taken to complement what you are already doing right, not as a replacement for moderation.  Talk to your doctor before beginning any diet aid.