Having a healthy appetite is a good sign that your body is working as it should be. The appetite is your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to refuel. It helps to regulate food intake for peak performance, and is designed to keep your body full of the energy and micronutrients it needs. In healthy individuals, this built-in mechanism is the perfect signalling service. 

However, for those who are overweight, obese, or experience extreme hunger for any number of health issues (such as a lack of protein, inadequate sleep, or high levels of stress), the appetite can be their worst enemy. This is because feeling hungry when you know that your body has had enough food can lead to overeating, weight management issues, and the inability to lose weight. There are some supplements or medications marketed to help regulate your body’s natural appetite signals. But what are appetite suppressants, exactly? And are they actually safe to use?

What are appetite suppressants?

Appetite suppressants are drugs that belong to the anorectic drug class. They are designed to reduce appetite so that people consume less food throughout the day, and are typically used by those looking to shed pounds. They can work by eliminating hunger pangs altogether or by causing feelings of fullness after only a small amount of food has been consumed. When they are sold over the counter (OTC) they are often referred to as diet pills.

These types of medications essentially trick your brain by utilizing a couple of different tactics. One such tactic is to increase levels of serotonin, which leads to feelings of fullness. This is because serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant and can actually turn off feelings of hunger. Appetite suppressants can also target the adrenal gland and block the brain from communicating hunger signals to the rest of the body.

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Image by I yunmai on Unsplash: Appetite suppressants can be effective, but they don’t work for everyone.

Do appetite suppressants work?

Appetite suppressants have been shown to be effective; however, they may not always work for everyone. Research has shown that people who use appetite suppressants in combination with a healthy diet plan and exercise regimen were able to lose roughly three to nine percent of their starting weight in the 12 months following the beginning of their weight loss journey. But this number is an average, and does not take into account those who may not have had any success with the drug.

Is it safe to take appetite suppressants?

Back in the 1990s, doctors discovered the appetite suppressant “fen-phen”, which worked wonders for melting fat away. But in the years that followed, some of the patients who had taken the drugs were found to have heart valve damage that led to heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. These damages were fatal in some people. This revelation about the appetite suppressant caused the pills to become feared rather than revered.

Since then, new appetite suppressants have been created in their place. The drugs that are now in use have been deemed safe to use without the risk of serious side effects such as the ones that came with the use of fen-phen; however, they may not be safe for everyone. For example, those with glaucoma, heart disease, liver disease, or hypothyroidism should not use appetite suppressants at all. They are also deemed unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding people.

What are the risks of appetite suppressants? 

Before taking appetite suppressants, everyone should know the risks that are involved. This is because the risks can sometimes outweigh the benefits, especially for those who are not looking to lose weight for health reasons. There are many complications that can arise; for example, some people have developed pulmonary hypertension even while using the latest in appetite suppressants.

Appetite suppressants have also been shown to cause gastric upset in many people. This could lead to unwanted side effects such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Another big risk factor that goes along with taking appetite suppressants is liver disease. Though the condition may be rare, it can be incredibly dangerous.

Other more common side effects of appetite suppressants include:

  • Cough
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Change in taste
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia or other sleep-related issues

Appetite suppressants can also interact with certain medications such as anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants. Those who wish to begin taking appetite suppressants for weight loss should always speak to their doctor to discuss any medication interactions or potential side effects.

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Image by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash: Appetite suppressants can help people lose weight, but are best combined with a healthy lifestyle plan.

Are there any effective alternatives to appetite suppressants?

If you want to explore other options for losing weight in the form of natural appetite suppressants, there are many options available to you. One simple way to suppress your appetite is by increasing your fiber intake. Fiber has the ability to decrease cravings, control blood sugar levels, and help you lose weight.  

You could also try using supplements that increase levels of serotonin in the brain, such as 5-HTP. By increasing serotonin levels, you will feel less hungry. An increase in serotonin levels has also been shown to decrease carbohydrate intake, which leads to weight loss. Other natural appetite suppressants that are simple, easy to consume, and don’t come with many side effects include green tea, garcinia cambogia, and coffee.

Appetite suppressants may lead to weight loss, but they can also pose some serious health risks if they are not approached correctly. Speak with your doctor prior to beginning any new regimen with appetite suppressants.

Featured image by Bill Oxford on Unsplash