– Jamie Church
Alli (a post-modern spelling of “ally”) is the first FDA-approved over-the-counter weight-loss pill. I am sure you heard about it long before its June 15 launch date, thanks to a $150 million nationwide advertising campaign that spanned every kind of media outlet known to man.
A less powerful version of a prescription-only drug known as Xenical, Alli helps partially block the absorption of fat in the body. It works in a very similar principle to Olestra, the fat replacer in “Wow!” chips that was all the rage in the late 1990s.
Anything that blocks the absorption of fat has two drawbacks. First, there are the unpleasant gastric symptoms: diarrhea, bloating, gas, and even an oily rectal discharge at unexpected times.
Additionally, when fat isn’t full metabolized, neither are the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). This is precisely why many products made with Olestra were fortified with these nutrients.
The main reason why this product is flying off the shelves in record-numbers is that, in trial studies, people who supplemented their diets with Alli lost 50 percent more weight than those who simply dieted.
My main issue with Alli – or any other weight-loss drug – is that it does not teach healthy habits. Losing weight isn’t the hardest part of the gig; it’s the maintenance many people stumble with.
Although the dieters who also took Alli lost more weight, it is very likely they also gained back a higher percentage of weight once they went off the drug.
If you just pop a pill that helps melts pounds but does not help alter the eating habits that made you gain weight in the first place, what happens when you stop taking it?
Another issue worth thinking about: Alli is specifically a fat-blocker, so people who have gained weights as a result of diets very high in carbohydrates will not reap its rewards the same way as those who have packed on the pounds as a result of a diet high in fats.
The one positive aspect to this entire Alli craze is that advertisements make it clear this is not a magic pill, and that to fully obtain its properties, it should accompany a reduced-calorie diet and a consistent exercise program.
At the end of the day, I believe that just like in the famous children’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”, slow and steady always wins the weight-loss race.