Weight loss: Doctor warns against taking diet pills to slim down ‘Doesn’t burn fat!’

Dr Nighat opens up on her use of diet pills in the past

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The UK weight loss industry is worth an estimated £2billion a year according to British Heart Foundation, and more than six in 10 adults are overnight or obese, Cancer Research UK explains. Losing weight is not easy or quick – if you do it the healthy way – so many turn to diet pills or herbal supplements to help shift a few extra pounds quickly. However, This Morning’s resident doctor, Dr. Nighat Arif, has a warning for anyone currently or considering taking weight loss tablets. The doctor has shared medical insight into why they do not work, and suggested a few herbal ingredients you can incorporate into your diet.

During an episode of This Morning earlier this year, presenter Phillip Schofield asked: “How would you describe herbal and dietary supplements?”

Dr Nighat replied: “Herbal supplements are usually using a whole plant or combination of plants that are going to have the desired effect. 

“So that could be using things like anger, cinnamon, liquorice roots, African white kidney beans, green tea. 

“Then you’ve got dietary supplements and that’s using a natural single compound in a combination either in a pill or tablet, or powdered form and that can also have various side effects as an aid to weight loss.” 

Holly Willoughby wondered: “How do they claim to work?” 

“They usually claim on three different factors; increasing energy levels so you can exercise more, calorie burning or ‘fat burners’ as they are sometimes advertised as, suppress your hunger and make you feel fuller,” the doctor explained. 

Phillip pointed out: “There hasn’t been much research into this?”

“This is where it gets a bit murky; we’re all looking for the silver bullet for weight loss – I know as a GP it’s something that’s always on my agenda with patients because there are risks associated weight gain and obesity,” Dr Nighat  said. 

“When you’re looking at research, anything packaged as ‘natural’ isn’t going to go through the regulatory body. 

“The volume of research and studies on natural products aren’t always the randomised controlled studies, and then lastly, you don’t really need to have the checks because they are sourced everywhere. 

“There is a herbal regulatory body, so if you’re looking to find a product, then make sure it has that stamp, because you need to know it is a genuine product.” 

Phillip commented: “You can have something that is herbal, something that is natural, but if you’re on medication, then it can have a big effect on the medication you’re already taking.” 

“Exactly, for example, grapefruit, if you’re taking grapefruit it can inhibit other medications from working – like statins,” Dr Nighat remarked. “It’s really important that even herbal things are taken with some caution.”

Dr Nighat then revealed she had taken diet pills and supplements in the past. 

“I feel embarrassed about this as a doctors,” she said. “My medical head is telling me, ‘I know that taking herbal tablets or appetite supplement isn’t going to make me lose weight’.

“But I need to put this into some context; I’m Pakistani, I come from a culture where the arranged marriages are still a huge thing. 

“Growing up we were told you have to be slim, tall and well-educated. 

“I got the tall bit I just didn’t get the slim bit, so growing up it was always the fact I had to be a certain body shape and I wasn’t seeing women who look like me, who wore a hijab, with a certain body type on TV. 

“So my go-to, the ideal woman, was looking at Bollywood industry. I did feed into that, so I bought diet pills and bought herbal supplements even though I’m not overweight,” she explained. 

Phillip said: “Great research for you as a GP now, but did they work?” 

“Taking diet pills do not work – there is no such thing as a food that allows you to fat burn,” the doctor said. “There’s no such thing, it’s a myth. 

“I think we need to understand emotional eating and our body image needs to be addressed. 

“We cannot look at weight loss as just what you put into your mouth and movement. 

“Yes, in order to lose weight you need to have a calorie deficit diet and movement,” she added. 

However, Dr Nighat revealed: “There are certain things out there that does work. 

“Ginger has been shown it is great for thermogenesis, that means it allows calories to break down. 

“If you use between 500 to 200 micrograms in your diet, not as a replacement, introduce it into your cooking, don’t go out and buy a pill for it, buy ginger root. 

“It also allows weight reduction and it promotes insulin resistance,” she said. 

“Cinnamon can also lower your sugars slightly, but don’t overdo it.” 

Dr Nighat’s final piece of advice was: “It always comes down to, there’s no magic formula, calorie deficit diet if you want to lose weight and get moving.” 

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