The health industry seems to constantly be flooded with diet supplements and weight loss aids. There are entire pharmacy aisles dedicated to pills, drinks and powders that promise weight loss miracles. Celebrities are often used in advertisements for “quick fix” diet pills that tout amazing results with little-to-no effort. With all these products swirling around, people are easily caught up in the glamorous idea of weight loss without the work. Unfortunately, no matter what is advertised, over-the-counter supplements claiming extreme weight loss without behavioral changes are fraudulent.
So, what should you use?
Since designation by the American Medical Association in 2013, obesity is now considered a disease. Obesity is often accompanied by a myriad of other serious medical conditions, which is what makes it so dangerous. Risk of diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers increases with morbid obesity. However, these problems can be significantly alleviated with just 5%-15% weight loss. While the best treatment for obesity and successful maintenance management requires behavioral changes, counseling on nutrition and physical activity, there are some who may require additional help.
In the last 5 years, the FDA has approved four new anti-obesity drugs that are safely indicated for long term use. These approved medications are beneficial when combined with a strict, physician-assisted weight loss program; they are not a substitute for healthy diet and exercise. Treatment with anti-obesity drugs is indicated in patients with a BMI of 30 or greater, or those with a BMI of 27 or greater and at least one obesity-related illness.
The four newest FDA-approved drugs for treating obesity are:
Qsymia (Phentermine-Topiramate ER) – The combination of these two drugs, both known for small weight loss assistance on their own, has proven to be very effective with weight loss results. In the trials, patients treated with Qysmia lost more than 10% of their weight and were able to reduce or even discontinue use of medications for hypertension and diabetes.
Belviq (Lorcaserin) – Lorcaserin is a selective serotonin receptor agonist. It targets the receptors in the brain which control appetite. Treatments with Belviq showed an average of 8% decrease in body weight for patients. With that weight loss, patients saw improvement in other obesity-related problems, like hypertension.
Contrave (Naltrexone SR-Bupropion SR) – Buproprian is a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (used to treat depression) and Naltrexone is an opioid receptor agonist (used to treat addiction). Their combination results in decreased cravings and appetite. Trials with Contrave resulted in impressive weight loss. Patients lost between 8%-12% of their body weight. Patients revealed a decrease in their usual food cravings during the clinical trials.
Saxenda (Liraglutide) – Saxenda is the most recent FDA-approved anti-obesity medication. Liraglutide is a glucagon-like peptide receptor agonist, which was initially approved at a lower dose for diabetes treatment. Unlike the other approved drugs, which are in pill form, Saxenda is an injectable medication administered to the abdomen, arm or thigh. Impressively, the trials with Saxenda resulted in 9% decrease of patients’ body weight. Even more impressive is that of the patients that were prediabetes at the start of the trials, 71% of them were no longer prediabetes after a full year.
The Obesity Medicine Association has thoroughly researched these particular drugs for approval. They have determined that along with the assistance of a physician, a nutritional program and daily exercise, these drugs can significantly help increase weight loss to reduce the effects of obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Obesity Medicine Association. Obesity Medications. April 2016. <https://obesitymedicine.org/>.