Nutrition Articles

Discussion about Alli

Are the Benefits of This Diet Pill Worth the Cost?


What the Research Shows


  • Modest Results. Studies conducted by the company show that when using the Alli program (pills, diet and exercise) correctly, individuals can lose up to 50% more weight than dieting alone. They compared the Alli program with dieting only (not with dieting AND exercising), so it's hard to say whether these results come from Alli, the exercise component, or a combination of both. While 50% more weight sounds like a lot—here's an example. If you used the Alli program, you could lose 15 pounds instead of 10 pounds in the same amount of time. These results aren’t that dramatic—especially because you have to diet and exercise for it to work. In another study, dieters using the Alli program only lost three more pounds over the course of an entire year than people who dieted and exercised without taking the pill.
  • Less Potent than Xenical. The full-strength prescription version of orlistat, Xenical, hasn't lived up to its promise, according to data published by Consumer Reports. So is the less potent Alli any better? Data presented to the FDA suggest that the Alli program works best in those who are very overweight. In clinical trials, severely overweight subjects who took the drug for six months lost about five pounds more than those taking a placebo. In another four-month trial, moderately overweight people lost about 2 1/2 pounds more than the control group.
  • Short-Term Benefits. The modest benefits of Alli aren't likely to last in the long term. Alli is marketed for short-term use only, and follow-up suggests that people start to regain weight once they stop taking it.
  • Generally Safe. According to a GlaxoSmithKline press release, the safety and efficacy of orlistat, which has been marketed as a prescription drug in the U.S. since 1999, is supported by more than 100 clinical studies. This includes the four-year landmark XENDOS trial, the longest study ever of a weight loss medicine. More than 22 million people in 145 countries have used orlistat.
  • Not for Everyone. Alli is for people over the age of 18 who are overweight. It is not for people at a healthy weight, or those trying to lose the last five or 10 pounds. Other people who cannot safely take Alli include: people taking cyclosporine, warfarin, and thyroid or diabetes medication; people who have had an organ transplant; women who are pregnant or breastfeeding; people who have problems absorbing food; people with thyroid disease, gallbladder problems, kidney stones, and/or pancreatitis; people who are allergic to any of Alli's ingredients; and people taking other weight loss products. Continued ›
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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