Alli: Friend or Foe?

It's been on the market a couple months now. Alli is the first FDA-approved over-the-counter weight loss pill.

Since hitting the market in June, Alli's been going strong. It works by blocking fat absorption in the intestines. Alli can also block absorption of some good fats and nutrients. so those taking it should also take a daily vitamin. Cotton-O'Neil Dr. Stacy Weeks says Alli is meant for the overweight or obese - those with a body mass index over 30.

For those wanting to lose only a few pounds, she says the benefits probably don't outweigh the potential side effects. She says those are mainly gastrointestinal difficulties, such as frequent oily stools, an urgency to have a bowel movement, and gas with an oily spotting that can lead to "embarrassing situations." In fact, Weeks says Alli's manufacturer recommends people taking it wear dark pants and bring a change of clothing while they see how the pill might affect them.

Weeks says the side effects are worse if you eat more than the recommended 15 grams of fat per meal.

"Some people think it's a license to eat anything they want, and if they eat too much, the side effects will be pretty bad," she said.

Still, Weeks says if Alli is the tool you need to give you a push to lose weight, go in knowing the pros and cons, and knowing a low-fat diet and exercise are still your best friends.

"The bottom line is obesity is a disease," she says. "You can't cure it but you can control it and the only way to do that it is to make permanent lifestyle changes."

To learn more about Alli and weight loss, the manufacturer has put together a web site, www.myalli.com.


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