Why Most Diet Pills are Either Illegal or Ineffective (1 of 3)

I was teaching at my biology class the other day and one of my students asked about what is the diet pill I would recommend. My answer is basically in the title. To be fair, for people that have imbalanced diet, some supplements might help their weight loss. Some natural supplements can also help when combined with exercise. But the active ingredients for these items are usually very cheap and once its packed and branded by the big brands (cough.. cough… G*C), then it would be priced way above what it should be. Below are my list of common effective but illegal drugs in most western countries. It is meant as a warning when you look at the product ingredient so you can avoid them, not the opposite.

The Illegal Ones

DNP (2,4 Dinitrophenol)

Other names: 1 Hydroxy-2,4-dinitrophenol, Solfo Black, Nitrophen, Aldifen, and Chemox

Yes, it actually works. Basically we consume food mainly as a source of energy in the form of ATP. And this substance lowers the efficiency of converting food to ATP. It is so effective that a person weighing 100 kg can loose 5 kg in 10 days. This product has been banned by the FDA since the 1940’s. So if its so effective, why is it forbidden? Basically use it too much (and depending on your bodyweight, effective dose could be less than 200 mg) and you could ended up increasing your metabolism so much that you will fry your internal organs. It is so hazardous that its other usage are insecticide, wood preservative, herbicide and explosive.

Sibutramine (chlorosibutramine)

Other names:  Reductil, Meridia, and Siredia

If you can’t increase the “cost” of converting the food to energy, what do you do? You suppress the appetite. And this drug actually works. Except that this drug also increase your chance of getting heart disease and stroke, along with possible side effects as  dry mouth, paradoxically increased appetite, nauseastrange taste in the mouth, upset stomach, constipation, trouble sleeping, dizziness, drowsiness, menstrual cramps/pain, headache, flushing, or joint/muscle pain. Hence this drug has been banned and taken out of the market since 2010.


Other names: Bronkaid, Primatene

Mammals such as rats have “brown fat” which unlike “white fat” commonly found in humans, continuously burn calories. Ephedrine mimics this effect in the skeletal muscle, along with slowing down gastric emptying (makes you feel full longer). This product was widely used for a long time until piling evidence of increased risk of stroke and heart disease along with common side effects such as trouble sleeping, anxiety, headache, hallucinationshigh blood pressurefast heart rate, loss of appetite, and inability to urinate leading it to be banned from most advanced countries by early 21st century.


Other names: Acomplia, Zimulti

Another appetite suppressant drug that was introduced in EU in 2006, never approved in US and Canada, and was withdrawn from EU market in 2008. Why? Because it increases suicidal and depression tendency along with common risk of developing gastroenteritis, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and other sleep disorders, hot flushes, diarrhea, vomiting, dry or itchy skin, tendonitis, muscle cramps and spasms, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and increased risk of falling.


Other names: Fenfluramine (Podimin) combined with Phentermine

Both drugs are proven effective on weight loss and the combination of both further increases its effectiveness. Problem is that both drugs have well known harmful side effect and the combination of both have the potential to cause fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problem. As of 2005, Wyeth Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer and marketer of this product had to settle billions of USD in court over the damages.


Other names: Dilaterol, Spiropent, Ventipulmin

Word on the street is that this is the drug of choice for Holywood stars to gain muscle mass and loose body fat. Unlike synthetic testosterone (a.k.a. steroids), Clenbuterol will not cause women to develop male secondary sexual characteristic. And testing on animals have shown that the effects are real. Sounds too good to be true right? well, it is.

Short term side effect of clenbuterol ingestion that was recorded due to human ingestion of clenbuterol tainted meat ranges from muscle crams, hypertension, increased heart rate, dry mouth, insomnia, vomiting, tremors, sweating, etc. Long term side effect of the drug includes heart abnormalities and decrease in bone mass. Worse yet, your body developed resistance to the drug over the long run which will cause weight gain on the user. Currently this drug is only legally allowed to be used to treat horse asthma. And once the horse has been treated with it, it can no longer be slaughtered for human consumption.


Yes, these drugs do work as advertised. They do so either by:

  1. Increasing your metabolism that will increase your body temperature and quite possibly either fry your internal organs, or make your internal organs behave in uncertain ways such that it ended up damaging them.
  2. Lowering your appetite or making your stomach feel fuller. Of course drugs that alter your nervous system related to the digestion system also have a chance of affecting other nervous system in your body, including your brain.

Both kinds of weight loss drug does work, but it comes with its own risk, either it will risk killing you in the long run,  due to overdose, or turn you into suicidal. There’s a reason why these drugs got banned in the first place.

Stay tuned for part two on the currently legal drugs that might not be as efficient as advertised.

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