Appetite suppressants – Do they actually work?

woman trying to suppress appetiteThe most common reason why so many of us fail to maintain a diet in the long term, is because of the discomfort caused by cravings and hunger when reducing calorie intake, this is where appetite suppressants can come in handy.

We all know how easy it is to succumb to temptation and eradicate those hunger pangs by foraging in the fridge or emptying the biscuit tin.

While your body will gradually get used to eating less over time, the first 4-6 weeks of a diet are undoubtedly the hardest. It is for this reason appetite suppressants have become so popular, helping to ward off temptation and unwanted hunger, and even re-train eating habits.

How do appetite suppressants work?

Appetite suppressants can contain either chemicals or more natural ingredients such as herbs; and some foods have appetite suppressant properties in their natural form.

The different types of appetite suppressants:

1. Chemical or prescription-only appetite suppressants

These work by increasing levels of serotonin or catecholamine, which are chemicals in the brain that affect mood and appetite. Many chemical appetite suppressants are related to amphetamines, and as such, are available only on prescription.

appetite suppressantsPrescription only pills should be taken for no longer than 8-12 weeks as they can become addictive. These type of diet pills could accurately be described as mind altering drugs, they should certainly only be used as a last, rather than a first resort by dieters.

2. Over-the-counter appetite suppressants

Most over-the-counter appetite suppressant supplements contain natural ingredients which usually make them safer than those based on amphetamine-related drugs. They often work by producing bulk in the stomach which reduces hunger without the need to manipulate hormone levels.

hoodia herbal appetite suppressant

Hoodia Gordonii

Herbal appetite suppressants, such as Hoodia Gordonii, use the substance known as P57 (which occurs naturally in Hoodia Gordonii plants) to mimic glucose in the hypothalamus of the brain, and this causes the brain to delay feelings of hunger.

3. Natural appetite suppressants

Soluble fibre occurs naturally in prunes and prune juice, oats, barley, apples and citrus fruits. It works as an appetite suppressant because when it makes contact with water in the stomach, it forms a gel-like material which stays in the stomach for longer than other foods, promoting feelings of fullness.

proactol natural appetite suppressant

The popular natural appetite suppressant – Proactol Plus

One popular natural supplement is Proactol Plus. The Proactol Plus formula contains a soluble fibre found in the Prickly Pear cactus to help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

It also has fat-binding properties meaning it can help remove a percentage of fat from your diet without watching what you eat.

Are there any side effects?

Yes, appetite suppressant diet pills, particularly those that are chemical based and available on prescription, can cause significant side effects. It is very important to examine both the scientific evidence and the consumer reviews before deciding to use this type of diet pill.

One appetite suppressant, marketed in France under the name of Mediator, was thought to be responsible for around 1300 deaths and 3100 hospital admissions when it was withdrawn in 2009.

bbc investigationThe European Medicines Agency suspended the licence in Europe of Sibutramine, another appetite suppressant drug, following evidence that the drug may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke see –

Another concern is that by reducing food intake long-term, the body may become deficient in important vitamins and minerals such as iron and potassium. It is very important, therefore, to ensure that a sensible diet is maintained even where the appetite is artificially suppressed.

alertUse of natural supplements such as Proactol and Hoodia are unlikely to cause any adverse side effects beyond perhaps a slight bloated feeling. Again, even with herbal products it is important to read the research and consumer reviews on a product before using it.


There is no doubt that appetite suppressants work and that they can be an effective weight-loss tool, however the vast majority of them should only be used under a doctor’s supervision and for a short period of time.

Herbal and natural appetite suppressants carry less risk and, for those who regularly fail to maintain a diet through lack of willpower once the hunger pangs kick in, they can provide the support that is needed to reach that target weight.

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