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Diet Pills - Problems
Sixty percent of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight, and many people turn to diet pills.  Do diet pills work?  Are they safe?  According to medical experts at the National Institute of Health (NIH), only people who are morbidly obese should use diet pills.  Morbid obesity, by definition, means that a person has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30 or that a person is 30 percent over ideal weight for their height and bone structure.  Morbid obesity also implies that weight loss is essential to the life of the person.  People who have high blood pressure or diabetes might be good candidates for diet pills.  These drugs are never recommended for children under 16, with the exception of Orlistat, which can be used by teens over 12.   

The NIH and the American Heart Association warn that there are dangers associated with many diet pills.  All diet pills contain amphetamine-like ingredients or laxatives.  Amphetamines aggravate high blood pressure and they speed up the action of the heart and nervous system.  Both amphetamines and laxatives can be addictive and their action tends to lessen over time, causing users to increase their dosage.  Many diet pills have been linked to cardiac valve abnormalities.  Symptoms of this valvular regurgitation are fatigue when exercising, shortness of breath, irregular heart rate, and swelling of feet or legs that subsides after bed rest.  This problem is complicated by the fact that any or all of these symptoms may be caused by obesity itself.

Other side effects to some diet pills include sleep deprivation, dermatitis, and gastrointestinal problems.  The ingredient ephedra, which was recently banned by the FDA, was blamed for some extreme reactions, including in a few cases, death.  The ingredients in diet pills can react dangerously with other medications, particularly those used to control high blood pressure or heart disease.

Diet pills, even the herbal supplements or over-the-counter products, should never be taken without a consultation with your doctor.  Interaction between medications is a complicated subject.  A dieter should never assume that there is no danger, but should rely on the knowledge of his doctor and pharmacist.

Dieters should also be aware that diet pills are intended only for those with a significant amount of weight to lose.  Those with only a few pounds to lose should rely on portion reduction, exercise, and a general modification in eating habits.

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