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Feature Articles: Eating Well



New Weight Loss Drug Won’t Let You Cheat!

Susan Mills-Gray,
Nutrition and Health Specialist in Cass County,
University of Missouri


The advertising is all over TV and radio. Most women’s magazines have center spread ads. It’s even being pushed through direct mail literature. So, is this new product, alli, the wonder weight loss drug we’ve all waited for? While it might not be a miracle, this drug has been shown to be effective in weight loss, BUT, you must carefully follow the directions for use or you could have a REALLY challenging day!


Alli (pronounced al-eye and not capitalized) is the first over-the-counter, FDA-approved weight loss pill. It’s available in 60-count and 90-count starter packs and 120-count refills; and you must be at least 21 years of age to purchase. This is a lower dosage form of the prescription weight loss drug, Xenical, which was popular about 7-8 years ago. Alli’s product literature claims to help you lose up to fifty (50) percent more weight than dieting alone. So how does it work?


Alli works in your digestive system to block some of the dietary fat you eat; and there in lies the problem. The product literature clearly states that the person using alli must adhere to a strict low fat diet. If you cheat and eat moderate to high fat foods, the common side effect of alli is a change in bowel habits, which may include severe diarrhea, an urgent need to use the toilet and anal leakage. This drug works by absorbing fat; the drug binds with those fats you eat and carries them out the digestive system as waste. If you stick to a very low-fat diet, as the product directions instruct, you should have little trouble with the above listed side effects. This is a drug that you can’t cheat on…and that may be a good thing as it relates to encouraging you to eat a low-fat diet on a continual basis.


This drug is certainly not controversy-free. Users report severe anal leakage and grow frustrated that even traces of fat can trigger side effects for some users. Many in the nutrition world are concerned that this drug also blocks the essential fat-soluble vitamins we need daily. Fat-soluble vitamins: A,D, E, and K, rely on fat to be absorbed. The manufacturers of alli encourage users to take a multi-vitamin at bedtime daily to help alleviate this concern. Others contend that alli is not designed for everyone. People who have digestive system problems or are not extremely overweight should not use alli. Others who should avoid use are: those who’ve had an organ transplant, those who use prescription blood thinners, diabetics, and those with thyroid issues.


Many in the nutrition world are concerned that consumers may feel that taking this drug gives them a license to continue to eat whatever they desire. They will think that they no longer have to watch what they eat because this little pill absorbs all the bad stuff…calories from fat! And that’s just not true; users of alli must radically change their eating habits or suffer the consequences. Some opponents contend that alli was just barely effective in clinical trials. Patients who took this drug lost about 1 pound a month. That’s hardly any weight loss at all. You could get the same result by cutting back about 900 calories a week (that’s a candy bar, soda and bag of chips)! So do you need to invest in an expensive, side effect-laddened drug? Only you can make that decision.


The bottom line is, weight loss and maintenance is never easy. If you’re interested in alli, do some research and make sure you’re ready abide by the rules or you could be spending most of your time in the toilet!


For more information, contact your local University of Missouri Extension center of Susan Mills-Gray at




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Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009






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