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Weight Management: Should I Use Over-the-Counter Diet Aids?

Nonprescription Products for Weight Loss


The only over-the-counter weight-loss product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is orlistat (Alli). It is half as strong as prescription orlistat (Xenical). It blocks the body from taking in some of the fat from foods you eat.

Many other over-the-counter products claim to help with weight loss. These products have not been proven to be safe or effective. Some of them can be harmful.

Talk with your doctor before starting any over-the-counter product for weight loss.

Risks of taking over-the-counter weight-loss products

The risks of over-the-counter (OTC) weight-loss products depend on which one you take.

  • Orlistat (Alli) can cause changes in bowel habits. These changes may include having oily or fatty stool and being unable to control bowel movements.
  • Other OTC products that claim to help with weight loss haven't been proven to be safe or effective and may be harmful. They may cause heart problems, stroke, kidney problems, cancer, or sexual problems. And they may interact with other medicines you might be taking.

If you are thinking about trying an OTC weight-loss product, talk to your doctor first. Tell your doctor about any other prescription and OTC medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements you are taking.

Related Information


Current as of: May 13, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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