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Phentermine for Weight Loss: Does it Really Work?

Phentermine, often sold under the brand names Adipex-P, Oby-Cap, T-Diet, Lomaira, or Zantryl is a stimulant which acts on the central nervous system (similar to an amphetamine) to suppress appetite for weight loss. First developed in 1959, Phentermine has been prescribed to patients who generally have a medical need to keep their weight down (obese patients with comorbidities in particular). This medication functions as a temporary, 4-6 week therapy combined with a low calorie diet, exercise regimen, and behavioral changes for quick weight loss results.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how Phentermine is able to suppress the appetite but due to its effectiveness, the use of Phentermine has allowed patients to more easily restrict calories in order to speed up weight loss in the short term.

Phentermine Controversy: Is is safe?

Phentermine is only considered safe to use on a short term, doctor-supervised basis. During the 1990s, Phentermine was combined with the serotonin releasing agent Fenfluramine to create the popular drug Phen-Fen. Fenfluramine was ultimately linked to several cases of pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problems. Wyeth, the drug manufacturer of Phen-Fen later paid damages of over $21 billion dollars in lawsuits and withdrew the drug from the market.

While Phentermine was shown to not have the same degree of life-threatening effects as Fenfluramine, experts still maintain that the controlled substance can produce a variety of health risks from the more serious primary pulmonary hypertension and valvular heart disease, to milder symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, edema and shortness of breath if used for a longer term than directed.[1] Phentermine also stimulates neurons to release high amounts of neurotransmitters called catecholamines (norepinephrine in particular). These neurotransmitters stimulate the nervous system, increase blood pressure, and elevate heart rate, creating restlessness and insomnia. Phentermine use must be closely monitored by a doctor to avoid complications that can arise on this medication.[2]

Apart from the potential of creating new health risks as a result of using Phentermine, those who may already have heart disease, high blood pressure, an overactive thyroid, prescription allergies, or are using other diet medications are not considered good candidates for Phentermine. Obese patients are likely to have one or more co-occuring health conditions that may increase the likelihood of developing serious complications on Phentermine.[3]

Are there safer alternatives to Phentermine?

Since Phentermine has to be combined with a low calorie diet to experience weight loss, a reduction in much needed muscle mass becomes a concern when calories are significantly reduced. Even as appetite suppression occurs your caloric needs remain the same, which means that the body has to create its energy from elsewhere. Low-calorie diets associated with phentermine do not spare lean muscle since the body switches to a state called gluconeogenesis which breaks down amino acids to make glucose for energy rather than breaking down fat to make ketones.

Between the loss of lean muscle mass and the potential for health risks, the best calorie restricted diet which positively impacts metabolism is the Jumpstart Diet for weight loss. This diet generates fast weight loss with minimal risks by increasing the burning of fat reserves. With the Jumpstart Diet, daily caloric needs are still being met and gluconeogenesis is avoided. There is no rebound effect because metabolism isn’t slowed and lean muscle is spared.

Additionally, while Phentermine may help with hunger in the short-term, specific food cravings  triggered by mood, stress and fatigue are likely to recur once the program is finished. Phentermine doesn’t have any mechanisms to interrupt the process of cravings compared to hunger. Fortunately, other medications like Contrave, or Craving Control 2 will interrupt the brain chemistry involved with cravings. Through dopamine receptor modulation, these medications can stop the cycle of cravings, but also help with long term behavior modification and weight maintenance. Overall, losing weight doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your health. On the contrary, safe and effective options like those offered by DietDoc can produce the fast results you need while keeping your wellbeing in mind.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23678625

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/phentermine-oral-capsule#important-warnings

[3] https://www.cardiosmart.org/Healthwise/d008/06/d00806