America has long had a weight loss obsession. There are constantly new fad diets, popular food and fitness influencers on social media, and an increase in diet and exercise apps. It makes sense that more people are on diets today than a decade ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and that 4 out of 10 Americans believe they are overweight, according to a Gallup poll from 2021.

While it goes without saying that a healthy diet and regular exercise are essential for longevity and quality of life, experts claim that too many people mistake weight loss pills for a quick fix for shedding extra pounds rather than the sometimes-essential tool they have been approved for.

Do weight loss pills work?
For the right person, weight loss pills can be a helpful tool in weight management. Rutuja Desai Patel, DO, obesity medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, acknowledges “clinical trials do show that they are effective for weight loss and weight maintenance,” but notes that weight loss pills are usually only suggested for people with a body mass index over 30 and after other weight loss treatments such as diet and exercise have been implemented into one’s lifestyle first.

Are any weight loss pills FDA approved?
“Over-the-counter supplements for weight loss should be viewed with caution because at best, they don’t work, and at worst, they may cause harm,” warns Patel.

While there’s no shortage in the number of weight loss pills on the market, only six weight-loss drugs are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-term use.