Health

You Can’t Count on a Pill

Claims persist they can help you lose weight — but here's the real skinny on their effectiveness

For those struggling with their weight, eating right and exercising are always the two preferred methods of reaching that magic number and acquiring better health.

For others who might need or want more help, a prescription drug can take some of the weight off — both literally and mentally.

If you’re not properly hydrated, you probably have a higher body weight and are 1.59 times more likely to be obese.

Which weight loss drug is right for you? Your doctor can help you examine all the options, but a new study also sheds light on which drugs work best. The review looked at 28 randomized trials in adults. It studied orlistat (Alli), lorcaserin (Belviq), naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave), phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia), and liraglutide (Saxenda). Each was linked to achieving at least a 5 percent weight loss after a year, but people taking Qsymia and Saxenda had the highest odds of reaching that target.

In addition, of those studied, 75 percent of Qsymia patients lost 5 percent of their weight. Only 63 percent of those on Saxenda, 55 percent on Contrave, 49 percent on Belviq, and 44 percent taking Alli hit that target. Compared to people taking a placebo, those on Saxenda and Contrave were more likely to discontinue treatment due to adverse events.

“This study provides additional information that may guide the selection of obesity medications based on evaluating the probability of efficacy along with adverse events,” Dr. Susan Z. Yanovski, co-director of the office of obesity research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, told LifeZette.

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The Limits of Pill Popping
Lifestyle interventions such as diet and exercise are still the basis of the discussions that Dr. Siddharth Singh, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, California, has with patients. Singh published the new report in JAMA.

Those who still want to try medication should know that weight loss is often regained when the patient stops taking the medication, Singh said. So you’ve got to do more than pop a pill to lose weight — and you’ve got to do even more to keep that weight off. This is why doctors encourage patients to have a healthy eating and fitness regimen instead of relying only on a medication.

“These realistic expectations need to be set forth while discussing weight loss medications,” he said.

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If a motivated patient wants to try a prescription weight loss aid, Singh said Qsymia is the preferred agent for most people, due to its efficacy and relatively fair tolerability. Belviq is also fairly well tolerated.

“I wouldn’t want patients to view medications as a magic bullet, but rather something that can kickstart a highly motivated patient to make a dedicated and sustained lifestyle change,” he added.

Not sure about taking a weight loss drug? You may want to consider your level of hydration, as an Annals of Family Medicine study says it is linked to our body mass index (BMI).

A University of Michigan researcher looked at hydration levels in about 9,500 adults and found that those who were inadequately hydrated had increased odds of being obese. So if you’re not properly hydrated, you probably have a higher body weight and are 1.59 times more likely to be obese.

Whether you pop a pill with water or just enjoy it as is — that’s certainly a reason to drink up.

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