The Alli Diet Pill
So over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was asked about the new weight loss drug Alli. Alli's claim to fame is that it is the only FDA approved, over-the-counter weight loss product. (It's made by made by Glaxo Smith Kline)
So how does this Weight Loss "Alli" work?
According to their website, the Alli diet pill works by blocking 25% of the fat you eat from being digested. Sounds awesome right? "I can eat pizza, burgers, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Alli will block 25% of the fat in the food from being digested?"
Not so fast.
So how does Alli block the fat from being absorbed?
Here's a quick science lesson. Alli, which you also may know as Orlistat, is derived from a bacteria that stops your body from producing the natural enzyme that breaks down dietary fat. This enzyme- pancreatic lipase, actually breaks down fat molecules into smaller droplets, able to continue on in the digestive tract.
So, Alli inhibits the fat you eat from from being broken down. Quite simply, if it can't be broken down, it can't be absorbed by the body. If it can't be absorbed, it doesn't provide calories.
So what happens to the fat that Alli blocked from being absorbed?
Ahh, this is where the idea of Alli goes south. Literally. Mess with your digestive system and it could make a mess of you. Since the fat goes unchanged, it basically speeds through the digestive tract through the bowels.
According to users of Alli, it sometimes makes it's way out of your body without you even knowing it! In fact, on their website, under the treatment effects section, they advise you that "it's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work".
I'll stop there.
To avoid the side effects of Alli, they advise you not to take in more than 15 grams of fat per meal, or about 45 grams per day total. This provides an interesting situation. Since their product works on eliminating fat, they're suggesting a low- fat diet.
Low fat diets are generally less effective than moderate fat diets. Here's why:
A low fat diet assumes a rise in carbohydrate, to make up for the energy loss from the fat calories. An increase in carbohydrate intake generally causes you to feel more hungry, due to insulin spikes and quick digestion of the carbs.
So now what? You're hungry, but you can't eat more carbs because you'll eat too many total calories. You can't eat fat because then.... well, you know. Hmm.
Higher carbohydrate, lower fat diets are difficult to adhere to. They provide much less satiety, making it more difficult to avoid overeating. High carb diets also maintain a higher, steady insulin level, making it more difficult to release body fat as fuel.
A lower to moderate carb diet with moderate fat intake provides satiety, meaning less cravings and urge to cheat or binge. A moderate fat intake also helps stabilize insulin levels, making it easier for body fat to be released into the blood stream for fuel. It also takes longer to digest, adding to it's satiety effect.
So does Alli help you lose weight?
As you know, weight loss comes down to creating a caloric deficit. You must be taking in less calories than you're burning over a period of time. Eliminating a portion of your calories big enough to create a caloric deficit will result in weight loss. Alli can help the caloric deficit if you are committed enough to perform your exercises, eat less total calories, and put up with the side effects.
It wouldn't be easy, but it can be done. However, a proper diet can easily provide the same weight loss effects, minus the need for pills and new pants.
One more thing I want to tackle here on Alli; a study was done that showed a 37% reduction in the incidence of type II diabetes in obese patience. This is indeed good news. However, I wouldn't be so fast to attribute this to Alli itself. These results are consistent with what we already know about weight loss. Losing weight (especially from obese) improves just about every marker of health in the human body.
In the end, I'd go with the proven, healthy, no side effect, diet and exercise program.
Labels: Alli Lose Weight, Alli Weight Loss Pill, Block Fat From Being Absorbed, Creating a Caloric Deficit, Side Effects of Alli