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Do Alli Weight Loss Pills Work?

Alli is the only FDA-approved weight loss supplement that prevents the digestion of some fat. Read on to see if this weight loss treatment is effective or necessary to drop excess pounds.
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Despite the fact that the theory behind losing weight is extremely simple, millions of Americans still struggle to maintain a healthy weight. A study from 2000 published in Obesity Reviews examined the long term effects of various weight loss plans leading back to the 1930s. The study found that for long-term weight loss, most diet plans only have a success rate of about 15 percent after three years or more.

The study authors noted that a combination of diet and therapy increased the long-term success rate to 27 percent, but no diet plan had complete success. These rather depressing results indicate that there may be more to losing weight and keeping it off than simply eating less. With diet plans failing them, many individuals turn to weight loss pills or supplements to make losing weight a little easier.

The Alli pill has received a lot of interest in recent years as one of the few diet pills that has been clinically studied and is FDA approved. But just because a diet pill has been studied does not mean it is effective. Find out more about the effectiveness and potential side effects of the Alli pill below.

What is the Alli Pill?

Alli (generic name orlistat) is a medication that blocks the absorption of some of the fat in the food that you eat. The pill can block about 25 percent of fat in food, preventing the body from storing it. According to studies on Alli, individuals who take the medication are able to lose up to 10 percent of their body weight over time.

Clinical trials have also shown that while dieting, taking Alli can help dieters lose up to 50 percent more weight. The results are somewhat minor, but if a person was able to lose twenty pounds through exercise and diet, taking Alli along with the new diet plan could result in an additional 10 pound weight reduction.

There is also a stronger version of Alli available, called Xenical, which is only available through prescription. Xenical is twice as strong as Alli, potentially blocking up to 50 percent of the fat that is consumed through the diet. Alli works by blocking an enzyme called lipase, which is what the body uses to digest fat and transform it into usable fatty acids. If the enzyme no longer works, the fat is simply expelled as a waste product.

Are There Side Effects?

Nearly all diet pills specifically targeting weight loss have some side effects. The Alli pills are no exception. A 2008 review of Alli side effects published in Drug Safety found the following potential side effects: Undigested fat in the intestines can cause bloating, excess gas, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, and other digestive problems. Fecal incontinence is a rare side effect.

Alli can block the absorption of some other medications (commonly warfarin, thyroxine, amiodarone, and cyclosporin) Because Alli blocks fat absorption, the body is able to absorb fewer fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins K, E, D, and A. In rare cases, kidney toxicity and liver failure can occur.

Alli is not recommended for use longer than 24 months due to the blocking of vitamin absorption and potential for other side effects.

The biggest risk when taking Alli, aside from the rare side effects that can occur, is the vitamin absorption risk. Fat is necessary to absorb several vital nutrients, including vitamin D, K, A, E and both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. Although your body can store up these vitamins for a while in fat molecules, eventually, the body will use up existing vitamin stores and require more.

The less fat that is absorbed by the body, the bigger the risk of nutritional deficiencies. These vitamins are extremely important for the health of teeth, bones, the immune system, and the control of inflammation. Your body depends on sufficient levels of these vitamins to keep you healthy. Long-term blockage of these vitamins can lead to a variety of health problems with serious consequences, such as increased risk for heart problems, osteoporosis, frequent infections and illnesses, diabetes, and even cancer.

Does Alli Work?

Alli is one of the only diet pills that has received FDA approval and has been studied in multiple human clinical trials. The largest study was conducted by Swedish researchers in 2004. This study included over 3000 overweight study participants with a study period of four years. During that time, half of the study participants took Alli while the other half too a placebo pill.

At the end of the study, individuals who took Alli lost an average of 12.8 pounds, while the placebo group had lost an average of 6.6 pounds. A review study conducted in 2014 and published in JAMA found that over a one-year period, individuals taking Alli were able to lose about 7.5 pounds more than their dieting peers. This showed a weight loss benefit of about 3 percent.

What Natural Steps Can Boost Weight Loss Efforts?

Even the manufacturers of Alli state that the medication will not be effective unless taken alongside a reduced calorie diet and regular exercise. Diet and exercise are still the most effective cures for obesity. However, what you eat matters more than some studies show. A nutrient-rich diet filled with the right combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates will equip the body to fuel its systems and release excess weight.

Building Blocks for a Healthy Diet
  • Calorie restriction
  • Large quantities of fresh vegetables and fruit daily
  • Avoid unhealthy fats including vegetable oils, trans fats, and seed oils
  • Eat a variety of protein types (such as muscle meat, bone broths, giblets, and eggs)
  • Avoid processed sugar, refined grains, sweetened beverages, and junk food
  • Eat seafood regularly
  • Limit grain intake

If you already eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, there are several additional steps you can try that may help further your weight loss if you are still overweight. However, some people try to keep losing weight even after they reach a healthy weight for cosmetic reasons, which is not advisable.

If you are already a healthy weight, further weight loss could cause more harm than good, leading to bone loss, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system. If you are still overweight, the following natural treatments for obesity might help you lose those last few stubborn pounds:

Check Your Thyroid

If your thyroid hormones are out of balance it could be preventing you from losing weight. When the thyroid is out of balance, the body clings to excess weight. This is typical after pregnancy, but some women still have thyroid issues long after their babies are born, and many men also have sluggish thyroids. If you think this might be a reason preventing you from losing weight, have your thyroid hormone levels checked by your doctor. Eat plenty of nutrients that the thyroid requires for optimal function. Eat a lot of iron, foods rich in magnesium, selenium, iodine, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Examine Your Eating Schedule

Intermittent fasting is a scheduled eating plan that has had positive results for weight loss in animal studies. Several studies on rats and other animals have shown that when animals are limited in when they can eat (but not how much), they tend to weigh less and have a reduced risk of developing health problems. These studies suggest that a 9-12 hour eating window provides positive results. On the other hand, if you aren’t eating regularly enough, your body triggers a response called adaptive thermogenesis, which basically means your body tries to burn fewer calories. This is often called “starvation mode.”

Studies show that a 10 percent reduction in body weight can cause up to a 25 percent loss in calories used by the body. Basically, this means that when you start losing weight, you will always have to eat 10 to 25 percent less than you used to in order to avoid gaining weight again. However, weight lifting exercises, a larger amount of protein in the diet, and semi-frequent “cheat” days can all counteract some of these effects.

Supplement for an Extra Boost

Any time you restrict calories, it is important to make sure you also eat enough nutrients at the same time. Losing weight can be unhealthy and hard on the body if not done properly. Aside from basic nutrient supplements (which ideally should come from food sources), these supplements can support your weight loss efforts:

Vitamin B6: Helps manage energy production

Guarana: A slow-release dose of caffeine that can help boost energy Green tea: Some studies indicate that supplementing with green tea can speed weight loss efforts

Gum Guggul: Some evidence suggests that gum guggul reduces bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol Horse Chestnut: Anti-inflammatory that can help control inflammation throughout the body

Alli Works, but May Not Be Necessary

Alli is a over the counter (and prescription at higher doses) medication that is FDA approved and clinically proven to improve weight loss results when taken alongside a reduced calorie diet and regular exercise. However, results are not dramatic and there is a risk for side effects. Rather than taking a pill to treat obesity, individuals can reverse obesity by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and implementing natural weight loss strategies to eliminate those last few pesky pounds. The risk of side effects with Alli, including the risk of reduced vitamin absorption indicate that this medication may not be the best treatment for weight loss given the lackluster results.





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