As one of the most well-advertised weight-loss supplement, Alli has managed to catch millions of people’s attention and consumer’s demand. Containing 60mg of the active ingredient Orlistat (Xenical), Alli claims to help you lose “two pounds for every three pounds” lost in comparison of a regular diet. But what exactly is Orlistat?
Orlistat is the weaker dosage of the prescription-drug Xenical (Xenical is prescribed to patients with a BMI greater than 30). This FDA approved drug blocks lipase in the digestive track from breaking down fat. Since the fat molecule is too large to be absorbed in the intestine, it is released as a whole and is not absorbed by the body. However, this drug includes some serious side effects.
Some studies have indicated a link between Alli and liver damage. Symptoms while taking this drug include loss of appetite, upset stomach and cramping, nausea, yellowing of the eyes or skin, and oily stool.
In one study, conducted by Donald D. Hensrud, M.D. of preventative medicine and nutrition specialist, patients using this drug only lost 5-7 pounds more in a one year diet than those with diet alone. Alli is intended to be used with a low-calorie, low-fat diet as well as exercise (don’t 95% of diets include the same restrictions?). The patient is encouraged to consume no more than 15 grams of fat per day, if more than that is consumed the side effects are felt.
Lets take a closer look at what it means to block the enzyme lipase. Lipase breaks down fat molecules so that they can be absorbed by the intestine- this includes all fat! Saturated, unsaturated, and trans-fat are all included .A highly misconstrued fact is that fat should be avoided in a healthy diet. However, this myth is untrue, fat is essential in the diet. It protects nerve endings, promotes healthy hair and skin, as well as protection around visceral organs (yeah, they left that part out when advertising Alli).
To sum that up, if you eat a Big Mac from McDonald’s you will feel the same side effects as you would if you ate peanut butter and a slice of provolone cheese. A Big Mac contains 29 grams of fat, and two tablespoons of peanut butter and a slice of provolone cheese combined has about 24 grams of fat; pretty close! But if you were to ask someone what sounds healthier, chances are they would pick the latter choice. And they are right! The fat found in peanut butter contains the healthy monosaturated fats, which help promote weight loss, contain Vitamin E, antioxidants, and have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Peanut butter also does not contain cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease. Big Mac’s on the other hand contain all three types of fat as well as HDL, the bad cholesterol.
That being said, not getting enough of the essential fats in the diet can have some ugly effects. For instance, half the vitamins needed to live healthy are fat-soluble. Without fat your body cannot absorb these essential vitamins. I’m not going to get into what would happen if your body doesn’t get the vitamins it needs, the list would go on forever! So, in the end would it really be worth risking your body’s health by taking a “fat-blocking” supplement rather than just eating a healthy diet?