Weight loss pills and supplements seem like a tempting way to lose weight quickly.

However, many of these pills can cause adverse side effects, which can be dangerous—especially if you live with diabetes. 

This article will explain everything you need to know about taking weight loss pills if you live with diabetes.

The growing popularity of weight loss pills

In recent decades, the popularity of weight loss pills has grown. In fact, 15% of US adults have reported using diet pills at some point in their lives. 

Driving this trend are the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics. 

One-third of US adults live with prediabetes, and without intervention, many prediabetes cases evolve into type 2 diabetes within a few years.

Nearly 40 million Americans live with diabetes, 90% of which are cases of type 2 diabetes. 

This is especially noted in the United States, where over 40% of US adults are considered obese and another third are overweight.

On top of that is the fact that being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes. 

Diet pills seem like the answer for fast and low-effort weight loss. 

Are weight loss pills safe?

Over-the-counter weight loss pills and dietary supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food products and not as a drug. 

Safer options are available via prescription. These are more regulated by the FDA. 

This means that there is more leeway for companies to make wild claims about their products’ success without any real repercussions. 

Unlike drugs, weight loss pills do not require premarket review or approval by the FDA. It is only after a product is found to be unsafe that the FDA will intervene to have the product recalled or removed from the market. 

The FDA does not allow weight loss pills to contain pharmaceutical ingredients, and products cannot promise to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission can take regulatory action against any manufacturer who breaks these rules, but the industry is largely unmonitored. 

Finally, over-the-counter weight loss pills mostly don’t work; they are full of filler ingredients that are ineffective and dangerous. 

In a report on the safety of weight loss pills, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that “little is known about whether weight loss supplements are effective, but some supplements have been associated with the potential for physical harm.” 

What are the side effects of weight loss pills?

Since this industry is largely unmonitored, a lot of side effects of weight loss pills go unreported. 

However, weight loss pills may cause the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Headache
  • Flushed skin 
  • Restlessness/insomnia 
  • Nervousness

Many diet pills are full of stimulants like caffeine. This keeps you alert while suppressing your appetite in an effort to help you lose weight.

You may be more susceptible to the negative side effects of the pills if you are not eating enough and you take too many—especially late in the day. 

Never start taking a diet pill without consulting your doctor first. 

Many can interact with other prescription medications you may be taking which could be dangerous to your health. 

Should people with diabetes take weight loss pills?

This is a decision that can only be made by you and your doctor. 

However, because of the lack of regulation—and the high likelihood that weight loss pills can interact negatively with other medications— it is not recommended to take them. 

Consult with your doctor if you’re struggling to lose weight. They can offer safer alternatives that will help you reach your health goals. 

What are alternatives to weight loss pills?

Diet change and increased physical activity are great strategies for long-term weight loss.

However, many people with diabetes struggle with insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain

If you have diabetes, there are some prescription medications available that are proven to improve insulin sensitivity and aid in weight loss. 

These include:

If you do not have diabetes, the following GLP-1 medications have been approved by the FDA for weight loss and chronic weight maintenance: 

  • Wegovy (injection)
  • Saxenda (injection) 

Talk with your doctor if you have diabetes and are concerned with your weight. There are safe, effective, and FDA-approved options to help you. 

What are the FDA-approved prescription weight loss pills?

The following weight loss pills have been approved by the FDA. These may be safer options, as they are more regulated. 

The side effects that people experience while taking them are reported back to the FDA for safety and efficacy purposes. 

FDA-approved weight loss pills include the following: 

  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)

What is the safest way for a diabetic to lose weight?

All medications, whether by prescription or over-the-counter, will have some side effects.

The safest way for anyone to lose weight, including people with diabetes, is to increase your physical activity and improve your diet. 

Talk with your doctor about healthy ways to incorporate small lifestyle changes into your daily routine. 

They may refer you to a certified diabetes educator (CDE) and a registered dietitian (RD). Both can work with you to better reach your weight loss goals. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with taking prescription medications for weight loss. Just be aware that side effects are likely. 

Does losing weight cause low blood sugar?

Losing weight doesn’t inherently cause low blood sugar levels. However, when people lose weight, their insulin sensitivity usually increases. If they’re insulin-dependent, they require less of it throughout the day. 

If you do not take insulin, but are on a GLP-1 medication for weight loss and blood sugar management, you may notice that your average blood sugar levels throughout the day have come down. This is a good thing! 

Check in with your doctor if you lose a lot of weight. Most medication doses correlate with your height and weight. Your doctor can make sure that you’re still receiving the right dose for your body. 

If I stop taking weight loss medication, will I regain the weight? 

This may often be the case. Many people do regain moderate amounts of weight after they stop taking prescription medications for weight loss.

Some prescription weight loss medications may suppress appetite. If you stop taking them, you may start eating more. 

Contact your doctor if you’re experiencing adverse side effects from a medication or have undergone a major life change (like pregnancy or menopause.) 

For example, it’s dangerous to take weight loss pills during pregnancy. 

Your doctor can determine if you need to change or stop taking any of your medications.