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Mar 08

Safe Diet Pills: What Are Their Key Ingredients?


If you’re one of the estimated 68 percent of American adults who are either overweight or obese, you may be ready to start looking at over-the-counter weight loss supplements and diet pills for an extra boost.

However, you’re not ready to sacrifice your health just to be thin, and you’re looking for a diet pill that will be both safe and effective.

This can be a tricky thing to find as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulation dietary supplements ore require trials to demonstrate safety or effectiveness. It is only after numerous customer complaints that the FDA issues a warning or a recall of unsafe diet pills, as it did with Fen Phen in 1997.

Because of this lack of regulation, it’s up to you-the consumer-to do the research necessary to select a diet pill that is both safe and effective. However, there are a few ways to start looking, and one is by knowing which natural or herbal ingredients deliver weight loss without putting your health in jeopardy.

To help you get started, here’s a look at five common diet pill ingredients that deliver weight loss without severe side effects.

1. African Mango

Sometimes listed as Irvingia gabonensis, African mango is a fruit native to the trees of African and Southeast Asia. Known for their fat- and protein-rich nuts, the fruit is highly prized as a weight loss aid.

African mango is relatively new on the weight loss market, but it has already been endorsed by trusted figures like television personality Dr. Oz. Due to its high fiber content, African mango is able to suppress the appetite, lower cholesterol, promote healthier blood sugar levels, and even burn fat in moderate amounts.

The 2005 study that propelled African mango to fame involved 40 obese individuals, who were either given African mango or a placebo. Those who supplemented with African mango saw decreased LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and increased HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), along with an average 28-pound weight loss over the eight-week period. Those who received a placebo reported no such changes.

The results of this relatively small study were then supplemented with a 2009 study that also reported both weight loss and body fat loss. In this study 102 overweight and/or obese subjects were given 150mg of African mango twice daily and showed “significant improvements in body weight, body fat, and waist circumference.”

While the fat-burning properties of African mango have some influence on these results, most of the power of African mango lies in its high fiber content. Fiber is remarkably effective in filling the stomach and keeping the body satisfied, thus diminishing caloric intake and helping improve the metabolism.

Safety Profile: Unlike most diet pill ingredients, African mango is not a stimulant. This means it does not trigger faster reactions in the body or increase the body’s core temperature to improve metabolism and burn fat. Instead, it relies primarily on appetite suppression, which means the heart problems usually attendant with diet pills aren’t present with African mango.

Because of this, African mango is considered “possibly safe” by WebMD when used for up to 10 weeks. The only side effects reported with African mango are increased flatulence, some headaches, and sleep problems.

2. Cayenne Pepper

This spicy herb derived from chili peppers not only enhances your dinner-time pallet, but can actually help to burn fat.

According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, cayenne pepper was able to burn more calories and improve fat metabolism. Researchers placed subjects on a high fat diet, and half supplemented with cayenne while the other half did not.

Those who supplemented with cayenne actually lost eight percent of their body fat as compared to those who did not.

Cayenne manages to boost fat loss in this way because it contains a component called capsaicin, which is responsible for increasing the proteins in the body that breaking down fat. This leads to fewer fat stores and an improvement in digestion and metabolism overall.

Safety Profile: Considered “likely safe” by WebMD, cayenne has no more negative side effects than your usual spicy food. While it can result in some minor stomach irritation, sweating, flushing, or a runny nose, cayenne does nothing to harm your overall health. You can even take it over a period of time without adverse side effects.

If you’re not opposed to spicy foods, try sprinkling a bit of cayenne over your meal each day or look for a supplement containing cayenne or capsaicin.

3. Chitosan

Chitosan is a sugar that is derived from the hard outer layers of lobsters, crab, and shrimp. While it may not be kosher, it does block the absorption of fats and cholesterol to prevent them from being stored as excess fat in the body.

If you’ve heard of the popular weight loss supplement Alli, chitosan works in much the same way. It enters the body and when fats and cholesterol are being digested in the lower intestine, chitosan prevents them from being absorbed by the body. The result is a straight flush of fats as waste.

Over time, this may help to contribute to weight loss, but results seen with chitosan are usually mild-though still statistically significant.

Safety Profile: Chitosan can’t cause any lasting harm to your body, but it can lead to some unpleasant and embarrassing side effects that dissuade many users from trying it.

Because chitosan is a fat blocker and prevents the absorption of fat and cholesterol, it increases the volume of waste output from the body. This means you’ll likely experience some mild stomach upset, constipation, or gas. Other users have reported anal leakage, spotting, and uncontrollable bowel movements.

You can essentially control the level of side effects you experience with chitosan by simply eating a diet lower in fat.

4. Seaweed

High in fiber, seaweed is another good bet for appetite suppression and weight loss. Specifically, seaweed contains a fiber called Alginate, which has been shown to reduce the body’s ability to absorb fat by up to 75 percent. It also expands inside your stomach and sends signals to your brain that you no longer need to eat.

And because fiber takes extra energy to digest, your metabolism will likely improve with seaweed.

If an under-active thyroid is more responsible for your difficulty in losing weight, seaweed can help there too. A natural source of chromium and iodine, seaweed can effectively stimulate the thyroid gland to produce higher levels of hormones that can remove the barriers you face in losing weight. Without these hormones, your metabolism worsens and your body tends to hang onto weight.

Thyroid conditions are difficult to self-diagnose, however, and if you suspect you may have an under-active thyroid, you should consult with your doctor.

Safety Profile: Again, because seaweed operates primarily in the digestive system, it doesn’t have any negative side effects on the central nervous system. However, like chitosan, it can cause some stomach problems such as nausea, gas, stomach cramping, and a green discoloration of the stools. These side effects are primarily present within the first week of use, and should fade with time.

Seaweed is generally only recommended for use in two-month cycles, so if you use a supplement with seaweed, remember to cycle usage and take a month off in between your two-month intervals.

5. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Conjugated Linoleic Acid, also known as CLA, is another up-and-coming supplement on the weight loss market. A family of linoleic acid isomers held together by a loose chemical bond, CLA is mostly derived from meat and dairy products.

In terms of weight loss, supporters believe it can help increase feelings of fullness and thereby reduce hunger and lower caloric intake. Recommended in doses of 0.7 to 4.5 grams per day, CLA can decrease body fat mass and increase lean muscle mass.

These effects have been observed in 35 clinical studies using CLA in humans. According to one 2007 meta-analysis of these studies, CLA supplementation produces about a one percent increase in lean body mass per week and improves belly firmness. CLA’s effect on weight loss is more modest-about one pound lost every five weeks-but is still statistically significant and can be relied on to deliver.

You can keep in mind that increased amounts of lean muscle mass also have an effect on fat burning, so even if CLA doesn’t burn much fat directly, it can indirectly do so through the development of muscle.

Safety Profile: Because CLA primarily works to develop lean muscle, it does not affect the central nervous system, raise the body’s core temperature, or result in the jitters, anxiety, and heart problems of most diet pills.

However, some side effects have been observed with CLA, including upset stomach, nausea, and loose stools. Long-term use has also caused some safety concerns as research has shown that CLA can increase insulin resistance in extremely overweight people, thus increasing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Nevertheless, The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database considered CLA “possibly safe,” and if you aren’t at risk of type 2 diabetes or adverse to the occasional stomach ache, CLA is a good choice.

Choosing a Safe Diet Pill

Considering the properties of each of these ingredients, a diet pill centered on any of these five would probably be a safe and effective bet. However, even if your perspective diet pill does not include any of these ingredients, it may still be safe.

The best way to ensure your safety is to examine each ingredient individual and research potential side effects. Stimulants like caffeine or synephrine are always ones to avoid, while others like green tea may have stimulating effects but are ultimately considered safe.

You should also be aware that just because a diet pill is safe does not mean it is effective. The diet pill SlimQuick Razor, for example, contains ingredients like green tea and capsicum, which are safe but may not have what it takes to help you lose weight. Read more about SlimQuick Razor with this unbiased review at

In general, though, the best guidelines to remember are that you should always start small, take diet pills in moderation, and rely on them more as a support than a magic bullet for weight loss. The best dieting approach is still creating a calorie deficit through a low-calorie diet and increased exercise.

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