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Weight Loss

Assessing Orlistat: Does It Help You Reduce Weight?

by Scott McDougall

In 2016, a survey of 2,000 UK residents found that 48% of the people questioned had attempted to lose weight within the previous 12 months. Chances are that someone you know has been on a weight loss plan at some stage in their life — or it could be that you are on one yourself right now...

There are numerous guides to weight loss and weight loss medication out there. However, there is only one drug which has proven to be both safe and successful in reducing weight during clinical trials: Orlistat.

However, it’s not as simple as taking Orlistat and seeing the pounds drop off — the treatment needs to be accompanied by an appropriate diet and exercise regime. Find out how, and why, Orlistat helps you reduce weight.


What is Orlistat?

Orlistat (also known as Xenical) is a drug which is designed to treat obesity and assist with weight loss. It is a saturated derivative of the inhibitor of pancreatic lipase: Lipstatin.

It is prescribed to people who either have a BMI of 30 or more, or a BMI of 28 or more and a weight-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

It is not recommended that you use Orlistat during pregnancy.


How does Orlistat work?

It works by preventing the fat from the food that you eat from being absorbed into your body. This fat eventually exits the body via your faeces.

Note: In isolation, Orlistat may not reduce weight, as it doesn’t burn existing fat.

For Orlistat to work, it must be used in conjunction with other weight loss tactics. These include a regular exercise programme and a healthy diet. Orlistat capsules should be taken with a meal which contains fat.

As a treatment for obesity or weight reduction, Orlistat usage should only be extended beyond three months if your body weight has decreased by 5% during that same time period. This is to ensure that taking Orlistat is both safe and effective.


Does it really work?

If used together with additional weight loss tactics, Orlistat has been shown to work.

Studies have shown that people taking Orlistat and keeping to a low-calorie diet lost on average 1.25 stone (8.1kg) a year, which was 6lb (2.8kg) more than those who did not take the medication during the same time period.

Two-year studies have also found that people following this course of treatment could lose up to 10% of their body weight in a year.   


Are there any side effects?

As with many medications, there are some side effects to Orlistat. Here are some of the recorded side effects of taking Orlistat:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain/discomfort
  • Flatulence
  • Oily or fatty stools
  • An oily discharge from your rectum
  • Urgent need to use the toilet
  • More frequent stool passing
  • Upper respiratory tract infections, for example, a cold.


Are there conditions that will reduce the effectiveness of Orlistat?

People with type-2 Diabetes may find that the effects of Orlistat are reduced, but not eroded. As mentioned before, Orlistat is not safe to be used during pregnancy.


Orlistat is the only medication that is licensed in the UK which is clinically proven to reduce weight loss. However, it is not as simple as taking the capsules and then seeing instant results. Orlistat does work, but in order for it to be effective, you must be committed to reducing your weight by adopting a healthy diet and adhering to a suitable exercise program.

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