Understanding How Weight Loss Drugs Work: A Beginner’s Guide

Understanding How Weight Loss Drugs Work: A Beginner’s Guide

Losing weight can be a struggle for many individuals, and sometimes diet and exercise alone may not be enough to reach their desired goals. In such cases, weight loss drugs can be a helpful tool. However, understanding how these drugs work is crucial to ensure safe and effective use. In this beginner’s guide, we will explore the different types of weight loss drugs available, their mechanisms of action, and some important considerations.


Understanding Weight Loss Drugs

Before delving into the specifics, it’s important to note that weight loss drugs are typically recommended for individuals who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, or for those with a BMI of 27 or higher accompanied by obesity-related health conditions like high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. These drugs should always be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional and in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise plan.


There are mainly two types of weight loss drugs: appetite suppressants and fat absorption inhibitors.


  1. Appetite suppressants:

These drugs work by reducing your hunger or making you feel full after consuming smaller portions of food. They act on certain areas of the brain to control appetite and cravings.


One common appetite suppressant is phentermine. It belongs to a class of drugs known as sympathomimetic amines,

which stimulate the release of norepinephrine in the brain. This leads to increased feelings of satiety and decreased hunger. Phentermine is typically prescribed for short-term use due to its potential for dependence and abuse.


Another widely used appetite suppressant is liraglutide, which is actually a medication originally developed for managing diabetes. It works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Liraglutide delays gastric emptying, meaning food stays in the stomach longer, leading to increased feelings of fullness and reduced appetite.


  1. Fat absorption inhibitors:

These drugs work by inhibiting the absorption of dietary fat in the intestines. When you consume food that contains fat, enzymes in the digestive system break it down into smaller molecules that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Fat absorption inhibitors block these enzymes, reducing the amount of fat your body absorbs.


Orlistat, also known as Xenical or Alli, is a popular fat absorption inhibitor. It works by inhibiting a pancreatic enzyme called lipase that breaks down dietary fat. As a result, up to 30% of the fat you consume is excreted through your stool rather than being absorbed into your body.


Understanding how weight loss drugs work is important, but it’s equally vital to know their limitations and potential side effects. Weight loss drugs are not a magic solution and should not be relied upon as the sole method for losing weight. They work best when used in conjunction with a balanced diet and regular exercise.


Moreover, weight loss drugs can have side effects, which can vary depending on the specific medication. Common side effects include gastrointestinal issues such as oily stools, frequent bowel movements, and abdominal pain. Some individuals may also experience headaches, dry mouth, or changes in taste.


It’s crucial to discuss these potential side effects and any underlying health conditions with your healthcare provider before starting any weight loss medication. They will be able to assess your suitability for these drugs and monitor your progress throughout your weight loss journey.


Additionally, it’s important to note that these medications are not suitable for everyone. Certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, liver disease, and certain gastrointestinal disorders, may contraindicate the use of weight loss drugs. Similarly, certain medications, such as anticoagulants and some psychiatric medications, may interact with weight loss drugs and cause adverse effects.


An essential consideration when using weight loss drugs is the need for long-term lifestyle changes. These medications are not meant to be used indefinitely and are typically prescribed for short-term use. Once the medication is discontinued, weight maintenance becomes reliant on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.


Weight loss drugs can provide a valuable aid for individuals struggling to lose weight, but they should always be used in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It’s important to understand their mechanisms of action, potential side effects, and any contraindications before starting any weight loss medication.

Contact Island Rheumatology Today! 

Remember, weight loss is a journey, and finding the right tools and support can make a significant difference. If you are considering weight loss drugs, consult your healthcare provider to determine if they are right for you and to receive the necessary guidance along the way.


Please note that the information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new medication or weight loss program.


If you would like an appointment to discuss weight loss options please request an appointment below, email us at support@islandrheumatology.com or call 631-886-2844 option 3.