Weight loss products and heart disease— there is no silver bullet

Being overweight can significantly increase your risk of heart disease. So, how you control your weight is more important than ever. With all the hype about weight loss products on TV, the internet, and even wellness clinics, it is easy to swallow the idea that a diet pill can be your answer.

That’s just not the case. In fact, diet pills can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Most over-the-counter weight loss products, including diet pills, do not work. Some can be dangerous and most have not been subjected to rigorous safety testing. Even the FDA-approved weight loss drug Meridia has been shown to substantially increase the risk of heart attack and stroke—while, ironically, offering no weight loss benefit to most people who took it. [Reference the New York Times article.]

So if not weight loss products—FDA-approved or not—how do you lose weight? In short, by cutting calories. Yes, it can be challenging, because if you are overweight, chances are you will have to make a lifestyle change. I know this can be done. I see patients all the time who prove it. Here are three:

  1. One patient, 6’1″ weighing 340 lbs., cut out all carbonated drinks and lost 60 lbs in one year.
  2. Another patient, 5’5″ weighing 180 lbs, cut her serving sizes in half and lost 30 lbs in six months.
  3. Still another patient, 5’2″ weighing 145 and on the verge of diabetes, cut out all “white foods” (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, flour, sugar, alcohol). She lost 25 lbs and improved her cholesterol and glucose control, thereby avoiding diabetes medications and reducing her disease risk substantially.

Every day I see men and women like these making calorie-reduction choices that cut their risk of disease and improve their quality of life for the long haul. My patients tell me the hardest part is committing to the first step—making the choice.

Below are some links to information that can help you on your way to healthy and sustained weight loss. Diet pills and weight loss products are not a silver bullet.

Until next time!

Stephanie Coulter, MD


Do you have a story you would be willing to share about an approach to long-term weight loss that worked for you? How about ones that didn’t? If so, please send an email to women@texasheart.org.