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Stimulant Weight Loss Supplements

Starting in the 1930s, stimulant drugs became popular for weight loss.  The popularity of stimulants steadily increased over the years.  As the use of stimulant weight loss drugs increased, so did the rate of complications from these drugs.  By the late 1960s, there had been numerous deaths associated with stimulant weight loss drugs which finally triggered the FDA to ban amphetamines, one of the most popular of the stimulant weight loss drugs.

In today’s era, stimulants are highly regulated by the FDA and other drug enforcement agencies worldwide.  Most consumers now know the dangers that are associated with these drugs, even when used as directed for weight loss. Over the years, numerous new “safe” stimulants have been released on the market.  Many of these end up being banned shortly after their release because of dangerous side effects.  One such example is ephedrine, which is similar to amphetamines but was widely hailed as a safe weight loss drug which could help the pounds “melt off.”

What Makes Stimulants So Dangerous for Weight Loss Anyway?

There is no denying that most stimulants can help short-term weight loss.  Of course, there are no magic weight loss pills and even the most powerful stimulant isn’t going to melt the pound off your body if you are still consuming more calories than you burn daily.  However, since stimulants tend to suppress appetite and increase your metabolic rate, it becomes much easier to burn more than you consume and lose weight.  Unfortunately, the way that stimulants help weight loss is also why they are so potentially hazardous.

Stimulants act in different ways but most work by affecting the nervous system and increasing or decreasing levels of certain natural chemicals including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.  These chemicals have various functions in the body, including regulating metabolism.  Norepinephrine is also called the “stress hormone” because your body releases it when it feels a threat (whether physical or emotional).  By taking a stimulant, you are essentially encouraging your body to become stressed and enter the “fight-or-flight” response.  This instinctual response prepares our body’s for dealing with perceived dangers.  The body’s ability to burn energy (calories) increases and hunger is shut off temporarily.  This response was very helpful for our ancestors should they have had to, for example, fight off or run away from a mountain lion.

While stress hormones are important for survival and can give us a quick burst of energy (like when you need to get that report done on a strict deadline), they can cause damage to the body over the long run.  Stimulants for weight loss will cause increases in blood pressure, increase heart rate, cause tremors, cause psychological problems, and lead to addiction.

Weight-Loss Stimulants: Tolerance, Dependence and Addiction

One of the risks with weight-loss stimulants is that users can develop a tolerance, dependence and/or addiction.  When a person takes a stimulant regularly, that person’s body gets used to the changes in the body which the stimulant weight-loss pill causes. The stimulant will then no longer be produce the same effects as when it was first used and the person will have to take more in order to experience benefits.  While tolerance is developing, so will a dependency.  This is the physical need of a substance; without the stimulant, the user’s body will not be able to function as normal and will experience withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to note that a stimulant dependency is not the same as an addiction.  An addiction occurs when a person emotionally needs a substance.  However, an addiction can stem from the physical dependency on a drug.  Essentially all of the weight loss stimulants which are now banned caused dependency very quickly and thus had a high risk of causing addiction in users.

“Natural” is Not a Synonym for “Safe”

Despite the dangers associated with weight-loss stimulants, they remain very popular choices for people who want help losing weight.  Now, there are countless stimulant weight-loss supplements available.  Most of these advertise themselves as “all-natural” and imply that they are perfectly safe compared to the stimulant weight-loss drugs which have been banned.  When looking at these weight-loss supplement options, it is important to realize that “natural” is not a synonym for “safe.”  There are many natural substances which are notorious for being hazardous – like heroin or arsenic.

The most common natural weight-loss supplements are caffeine and yohimbe. However, there are many other natural weight-loss stimulants found in supplements (which often promise to burn fat from your body with no effort on your part).  Some of these include guarana, green tea (www.weightloss.us/extracting-weight-control-from-green-tea-extract/), hoodia, and yerba mate.  While these may not be as strong as their banned stimulant counterparts, natural stimulants still contain the same risks as stimulant drugs.  People with health conditions like high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems should not take stimulant weight-loss supplements without consulting their doctors first.

Stimulants May Be Helpful When Used Properly

When used properly, stimulant weight-loss supplements can be very effective tools in aiding weight loss. The key word here is “supplement”; the stimulant should be used to help weight loss and not as the sole trigger of weight loss.  You can forget all of those claims that promise the “safe and natural” weight-loss supplement is going to make you shed pounds quickly without any effort. No safe stimulant is going to be a miracle pill for weight loss.

Small amounts of stimulants like green tea extract can be effective in suppressing appetite, increasing the amount of fat your body burns, and increasing your energy levels. Stimulant weight-loss supplements can also help give you a boost you need to exercise longer and more efficiently.

If you take a stimulant weight-loss supplement, it is important to realize that your body will get used to the effects over time (tolerance).  That is why many experts recommend cycling stimulant weight-loss supplement use.  For example, you may spend 3 weeks taking the supplement and then 2 weeks off of the supplement before taking it again.  This prevents your body from developing a tolerance so the supplement remains effective.

When you stop taking a stimulant weight-loss supplement, it is very important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise.  One of the withdrawal effects from stimulant supplements is increased appetite and decreased metabolic rate. That is why so many people will quickly gain any weight lost back after they stop taking a stimulant.

While stimulant weight-loss supplements are great for an extra boost to your diet and exercise plan, keep in mind that they are not alternatives for healthy lifestyle choices.  There is no “miracle weight loss pill” which is going to burn fat from your body without effort safely.  Weigh the pros and cons of stimulants carefully and discuss the risks with your doctor before making your choice. 

References:

Kalman D, T. Incledon, I. Gaunaurd, H. Schwartz, and D. Krieger. “An acute clinical trial evaluating the cardiovascular effects of an herbal ephedra-caffeine weight loss product in healthy overweight adults.” International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolism Disorders 26.10 (Oct 2002): 1363-1366. Web.

Blanck, Heidi Michels, PhD, Laura Kettel Khan, PhD, and Mary K. Serdula, MD. “Use of Nonprescription Weight Loss Products: Results From a Multistate Survey.” The Journal of the American Medical Association 286.8 (2001). Web.  

Pool, Robert. Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2001

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