The Truth About Slimming Pills

closeup woman hand with big belly try to wear tight jeans

By Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic

Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates

Slimming pills are not widely available – and they usually can only be prescribed by a doctor. Most of the time they are not necessary, and natural methods are all that’s needed to lose weight.

Here’re my tips and advice on slimming pills: 

  1. They are not the best way to lose weight

The best way to lose weight is through healthy diet and exercise. It’s only when this method has failed that you might want to look into medications which can help.

A multi-ethnic group of adult women are dancing in a fitness studio. They are wearing athletic clothes. Two women are laughing while dancing together.

Pic: iStockphoto

  1. They can double the weight loss from diet alone

Steady weight loss from diet and exercise is always recommended over rapid weight loss. However, when people are unable to lose weight through natural methods, slimming pills can be a helpful solution.

  1. There are different types of slimming pills

Not all slimming pills are the same. It’s best to do your research so you can make an informed decision.

The drug that is usually prescribed in the UK is Xenical. It works in a localised area of the gastrointestinal system to limit absorption of dietary fat. These pills only work if you adopt a moderately low-fat diet, where no more than 30% of your calories are derived from fat.

Weight loss from Xenical can be slow, but you should lose 2 to 3 pounds per week, which is double the amount which patients normally would achieve by dieting alone. Most people who use Xenical also manage to keep the weight off after treatment.

Woman's feet standing on scales with tape measure lying on ground

Pic: iStockphoto

  1. There are some pills you should stay away from

Some patients have been prescribed phentermine and diethylpropion from specialist slimming clinics. These drugs, however, were withdrawn from the UK market a few years ago because of serious risks associated with them. Patients have developed heart and lung problems as a result of the pills, and some have developed a physical dependency causing psychological side effects.

These pills also yield a fast weight loss over a short period of time, but as soon as they are stopped the weight is usually piled back on – leaving the patient disappointed. These drugs are an unsafe method of weight loss and should be avoided.


In all cases, patients should seek proper medical advice before taking any slimming pills.



Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!