Obesity Weight Loss Drugs Appetite Suppressants

Over-the-counter (“OTC”) appetite suppressants are a common treatment for obesity — many people consider appetite suppressants natural alternatives to weight loss drugs, simply because their ingredients come from natural sources. However, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe,” and some OTC appetite suppressants are of questionable purity.

Types of Appetite Suppressants

Appetite suppressants work in one of two basic ways. Either the product’s active ingredients trick the brain into thinking the stomach is full, or the product contains a “bulking agent,” a substance found in dietary supplements that can’t be digested. Instead, this agent expands in the stomach to create a feeling of fullness.

The effectiveness and safety of OTC appetite suppressants is questionable; long-term use can lead to addiction and abuse. Combining appetite suppressors with prescription weight loss drugs or other medication may cause significant side effects. You should consult with a doctor before trying any appetite suppressant.

Ingredients in non-prescription (OTC) appetite suppressants include:

  • 5-hydroxytryptophan: An extract from a west African plant found in some appetite suppressants, high doses may affect the liver, and its ability to promote weight loss has not been well evaluated.
  • Caralluma fimbriata: An Indian plant traditionally used during famine as an appetite suppressant. Widely compared to hoodia, very little research exists to prove or disprove its appetite suppressant abilities.
  • Chitosan: A substance produced from chitin, a shellfish starch. Since chitosan can’t digested, it’s often used as a bulking agent. Chitosan binds to fatty foods, sometimes removing fats from the digestive system. Its ability to generate weight loss is also questionable.
  • Glucomannan: A bulking agent that promotes a feeling of fullness by expanding in the gut. Glucomannan has been linked to esophageal and gastrointestinal obstructions, leading several countries to ban its use.
  • Guar gum: Like glucomannan, guar gum is a bulking agent that expands in the stomach, causing a feeling of fullness. Guar gum has also been linked to gastrointestinal and esophageal obstructions. No evidence suggests that its use results in weight loss.
  • Hoodia: Hoodia is an African plant used by the Kalahari bushmen to reduce thirst and hunger, a practice that led to the plant’s use as a natural appetite suppressant. No evidence supports claims that hoodia use results in weight loss, and the supplement’s safety is unknown, especially since products that contain hoodia often contain additional substances.
  • Pine nut oil: Korean pine nut oil may have some appetite suppressing qualities, but researchers are unsure of how safe it is, or of its tendency to react with medications.
  • Pyruvate: One of the more promising appetite suppressants, the natural formation of pyruvate occurs in the body during digestion. Pyruvate is present in red wine, cheese and red apples.


Diet Spotlight. (n.d.). Caralluma fimbriata review. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.dietspotlight.com/caralluma-fimbriata-review/.

Drugs.com. (n.d.). Glucomannan. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.drugs.com/npp/glucomannan.html.

Hirschkorn, U. (2007). Are herbal diet pills a big fat con? Retrieved April 27, 2010, from the Daily Mail Online website: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-475256/Are-herbal-diet-pills-big-fat-con.html.

Huges, G., Boyland, E. J., Williams, N. J., Mennen, L., Scott, C., Kirkham, T. C. …