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What’s the Worst Appetite Suppressant?

You’ve heard the claims. Take this little pill and poof — say goodbye to food cravings. It’s a simple equation. If you’re not hungry, you won’t eat. Bye bye, excess weight. The question is, at what cost?

It’s tempting to look to quick fixes, like pills and supplements, to try to slim down in a hurry. Taking an appetite suppressant can help you to bypass that pesky feeling that makes you want to eat in the first place: hunger. Sounds too good to be true, right?

It depends.

There are two types of appetite suppressants: prescription and over-the-counter.

Prescription appetite suppressants undergo rigorous testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their side effects and any potential long-term effects are known. Moreover, they’re typically only prescribed for clinically obese individuals, that is, people who have a BMI of 30 or higher.

On the other hand, anyone can buy an over-the-counter appetite suppressant. There are hundreds on the market. They’re sold online and at pharmacies, health food stores, and supermarkets. Most claim to be fast, safe, and effective.

Though they may be branded as “natural” or “herbal,” there’s no way of knowing what they actually contain. Unlike FDA-approved substances, there are relatively few clinical studies examining the effects of supplements.

But when it comes to over-the-counter supplements and pills, the most important thing to keep in mind that they’re not subjected to the same FDA testing process as prescription medication.

Just because they’re available over the counter doesn’t mean they don’t have potentially serious side effects. They may indeed help you to lose weight quickly, but chances are, taking them for long periods of time can have severe and lasting consequences.

Bitter orange is arguably the worst appetite suppressant currently on the market.

In 2004, the FDA banned ephedra, a natural ingredient in weight loss pills. Since then, bitter orange has been substituted as the active ingredient in numerous “ephedra-free” appetite suppressants.

It’s commonly found in diet pills that also contain caffeine, a combination which studies have shown can increase heart rate and cause high blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults. There is some evidence to suggest that taking bitter orange with caffeine can increase your risk of fainting, heart attack, and stroke.

Others have reported that bitter orange can prompt headaches, including migraines.

All in all, there is enough evidence to suggest that bitter orange is just as dangerous as ephedra. And yet, it’s remains the active ingredient in hundreds of appetite suppressants.

Does that mean that all appetite suppressants are harmful? Not necessarily. The bottom line is that you should always consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking a supplement, even if it's branded as natural.

[Image via Getty]

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