OK, so you already know that diet pills aren’t the healthiest way to lose weight, but what’s the real harm in using them? They aren’t that bad, are they?
While the side effects are written (in small print) on the label, have you ever really considered what those diet pills could do to your body? We asked Dr. Jaime Schehr, a naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian in New York City, to tell us the five most dangerous diet pill side effects, and how they can really be damaging to your health:
1) Liver damage and/or toxicity This is a very serious possible side effect of some diet pills. “The liver is the organ responsible for clearing or eliminating most chemicals (drugs) from the body. When the liver is damaged it is not able to perform its function of chemical clearance as efficiently, leaving potentially dangerous chemicals circulating in the body,” says Dr. Schehr.
Why it’s so dangerous: it could be irreversible. While your liver could return to functioning normally after you stop taking the diet pills, if the majority of your liver is damaged (from longer term use) it could be permanent, says Dr. Schehr.
2) Dehydration “Water pills or diuretics are commonly used as diet pills, but losing water can be more dangerous than you think,” says Dr. Schehr. “When diuretics are inappropriately used they strip the body of essential fluids and important electrolytes and can lead to potassium deficiency, irregular heartbeat, disorientation and fainting because the the cells of the body require specific water balance within the cells to function normally.”
Why it’s so dangerous: dehydration can cause some serious complications. According to the Mayo Clinic, stripping the body of too much water can cause everything from seizures to kidney failure.
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3) Increased Heart Rate/Blood Pressure Some diet pills act as stimulants to the central nervous system, causing the body to be in an abnormally excited state, which can lead to elevated blood pressure and an increased heart rate, says Dr. Schehr. “In addition, pills that act as stimulants may cause other side effects including dizziness, vomiting, hallucinations, hair loss, and blurred vision.”
Why it’s so dangerous: increasing your heart rate and blood pressure means a much higher risk for heart attack and stroke, says Dr. Schehr. And if you already have existing heart problems, your risk is even greater.
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4) Dependency While you may not consider it a “diet pill” but using laxatives as a ‘weight loss aid’ is, unfortunately, very common -- and it can wreak havoc on your body. “Chronic use of stimulant laxatives may cause the gut to lose its natural ability to stimulate a bowel movement by the mechanism of over stimulation induced by the laxative.”
Why it’s so dangerous: Misuse of laxatives can cause everything from IBS, intestinal paralysis, pancreatitis and even renal failure, says Dr. Schehr.
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5) Insomnia At first glance, this one doesn’t seem quite so “dangerous”, but its one of the most common side effects of diet pills, and its danger is often overlooked, says Dr. Schehr. “Sleep is the body's time to recharge. Lack of sleep can cause the body to improperly process glucose, leading to elevated blood sugars and putting someone at an increased risk for type II diabetes.”
Why it’s so dangerous: Sleep deficiency can cause drowsiness, fatigue anxiety and depression, says Dr. Schehr. Not to mention, driving drowsy is almost as bad as driving drunk, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who estimates that 1 in 6 deadly car accidents are caused by sleepy drivers.
Jessica Smith is a certified fitness lifestyle expert and creator of the 10 Pounds Down DVD series.
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