Diet Pills are Dangerous. What You Can Do as a Parent.


Children's Hospital Los Angeles RN Remedies Gloria VerretWhen I was a child, I remember my mom being concerned about her weight after having 6 children. I also remember how moody and irritable she became at one time when she was taking diet pills. Although I was too young to know why, my older siblings called her diet pills “grouchy pills.” She lost weight initially with those pills, but she stopped taking them when she realized her children had noticed the change in her behavior and she did not like feeling irritable. I also remember taking diet pills when I was a teenager and I too stopped taking them when I found myself unable to sleep well and grinding my teeth at night. I realized the price was too steep for the “benefits” of a quick fix.

Diet pills are not a new thing and the desire to be “thin” is not a new thing either. But despite not being new and being known as dangerous, they are still popular and gaining in popularity. In fact one study at the University of Minnesota found that teenage use of diet pills has doubled recently.

I decided to just try a popular search engine to see what would come up for “diet pills.” The first and only ten that popped up included “that really work,” “that really work fast,” “that work,” “that work fast,” and “for women.” I also noticed a popular talk show host MD being taken to task for promoting effective and safe diet pills. People, especially women and teenage girls, feel so much pressure to be thin that $40 billion dollars a year are spent on weight loss products that have no proven benefit. So I looked further to find out what doctors in reputable sites and the government based health sites are saying.

What health organizations say about diet pills

Teens especially feel pressured to be “thin” and have resorted to Internet sources, over-the -counter diet pills, laxatives and even classmates’ medications such as Ritalin to find stimulants and appetite suppressants.

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health warn that appetite suppression, starvation diets and use of laxatives lead to water and weight loss and the weight comes back when normal eating is resumed. They also warn that pills, powders and herbs promising a quick and easy fix are frauds and really are too good to be true. Pills that speed up the metabolism and suppress the appetite are risky and can lead to high blood pressure, fast heart rate and lung and heart problems. Some other possible side effects are:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Gas
  • Oily stools

Some diet pills are not safe for teenagers because they have powerful stimulant effects and are addictive. They can have serious effects on health.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration says many diet pills are not even legal, even ones you can find on store shelves. Many diet pill products can be tainted, contaminated or contact stimulates, which can cause major health problems or death. Experts at the FDA tested some of the diet products and found 70 percent of them to be tainted with controlled substances, seizure medications, prescription drugs and drugs not approved in the U.S. Other warnings from the FDA include:

  • Pills labeled “all natural” are often not natural at all.
  • Do not believe statements such as “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough.”
  • The FDA does not approve dietary supplements and can only publish public notifications and warnings.

A healthy weight without diet pills

In terms of losing weight, there is no magic pill. At CHLA, we encourage parents to help their children (e.g. young children, adolescents and teens) lead healthy lifestyles with tips on healthy eating and staying active. The Kids N Fitness© Program at CHLA is a great (and free) resource for families of overweight and obese children ages 8-16. The program, which is part of the hospital’s EMPOWER Weight Management Clinic is designed for the whole family and teaches on:

  • Understanding food labels
  • Healthy goal setting
  • Healthy cooking tips and more

teen-girl-with-drSpeak with your child’s doctor if there are concerns about weight and health. They will provide guidance on healthy foods and programs. Before starting any weight loss program for your child, check with their doctor first. If you’re not in the Los Angeles area, there are online resources provided by the FDA and United States Drug Administration (USDA) for healthy eating and weight management.

What to do if your child is using diet pills

If you find your teen is using any kind of diet pills or powders, it is important to get your child off the pills or power as soon as possible.  It may require the help of a doctor, so consult with your child’s physician to assess the health risk level of your teenager. For teenagers as well as adults, the safest and most natural way to be healthy and have a healthy body weight is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Your pediatrician can help with this. Your role as a parent is helping your child stay on track and encourage a healthy lifestyle.