A. Tianmeng (Tammy) Zhou, Dietetic Intern, Tufts Medical Center, answers: “There are many dietary supplements on the market that claim to reduce appetite or help you lose weight, but it’s uncertain whether they are safe or effective. Unlike for drug companies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require supplement manufacturers to provide clinical trial data.
“However, there are prescription medications for suppressing appetite. They work by altering chemical and hormonal processes in the central nervous system, resulting in a diminished appetite and elevated metabolism. The diminished appetite makes people consume fewer calories, while the elevated metabolism enables people to burn more calories.
“The FDA has approved a limited number of prescription appetite-suppressing drugs. They are appropriate only for short-term use (up to 12 weeks) because not many research studies have looked at their safety and effectiveness for long-term use. They may also have unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation and elevated blood pressure. Appetite suppressants should only be used under supervision of a health care professional and in conjunction with dietary modifications and physical activity.”