We Know Diet Pills Don't Work, But We're Still Buying

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Most people realize that if a supplement's claims seem too good to be true, they probably are. "Lose 10 pounds in 2 days!" or "Look like this swimsuit model in less than a week!" are claims that make most of us roll our eyes and shake our heads. But for some reason, companies keep making diet pills and other supplements. What is that reason? Because they still make money. Even though we know they aren't likely to work, a lot of us are still spending big bucks in the hopes that diet pills will help us reach our goals more quickly and easily. Why?

A recent survey, conducted by Thompson Reuters Pulse Healthcare, examined the health attitudes and behaviours of 100,000 U.S. households. According to the report, "The survey found that nearly 60% of participants believe that advertising for dietary supplements is untrustworthy." 63% of those surveyed had seen or heard dietary supplement ads within the last 6 months. People with higher incomes or advanced education (college degrees) were more likely to report exposure to the ads. Despite this high level of exposure, less than 12% of participants said they were influenced to buy the product from what they saw in the ads.

These results suggest to me that even though most of us are seeing supplement ads, very few of us are buying them. But that doesn't seem to be the case. We spend billions of dollars each year on products that are supposed to help us lose weight more quickly or get that 6-pack we've been dreaming about. I think it's more likely that people aren't being truthful about how much they are influenced by ads for these products. Every day I see members posting on the SparkPeople Message Boards, asking about dietary supplements. The posts usually start out with: "I know diet pills don't work, but I'm just looking for something to jumpstart my weight loss. Are there any good ones worth trying?"

A new German study found that a number of weight loss supplements can't live up to their promises. In fact, these pills didn't seem to work any better than placebos. Researchers studied the products on 189 people, and while some people lost weight, it wasn't a significant difference compared to those who took the "fake" placebo pills.

Why do you think we're spending so much money on something that deep down, we know isn't going to work? Is it desperation? A desire for a quick fix? Lack of education about these products?

What do you think?

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I think reaching for weight loss pills is a matter of desperation and reaching for help than it is looking for an "easy way out". While I haven't tried anything OTC since my college days, I have used prescription phentermine. It works and quickly, but the doctor I was seeing (business has since closed) was practically a pill farm. There was no nutritional education that went along with the drug which relies on dramatic appetite cutting before it eventually stops working or you can no longer afford to go. Phentermine is a stimulant and can affect your heart and sure as heck affected my sleep.

I turned to phentermine after my weight loss was stuck at about 55 lbs for a year. Not having the tools to navigate, I was willing to try something different, but I didn't know enough about nutrition. Today I'm a healthy weight, having lost more than 100 lbs, and it was not on account of the drug. For those of us w/ substantial weight, I think it's a search for a solution. Report
Weight loss is a vexing, frustrating thing. And I think even though we KNOW perfectly well that diet pills don't work, the temptation of "Anything to make this a little bit easier." or "anything to mean this wasn't all my fault--I have too much cortisol or something." is very strong and perfectly understandable.

I think of myself as being very pragmatic and I occasionally stare longingly at the diet pills as I am in the vitamin aisle stocking up on my multi or picking up some more D (doctor's orders). I never buy them, because I know at best they won't be that helpful or at worst they could hurt me. But I am still tempted. Report
I think we just want to feel like it will work for us. I think we want to believe they will make us skinny. I think it has to do with not wanting to do the work for ourselves because it is too hard. It's a good excuse to turn to. I am sure some of them help with weightloss, but you cannot honestly take a pill and not do anything and lose weight. It is just not possible. The best thing to do is workout and eat right. If you need help, see a dietician. They can help you through your weightloss journey with great tips. Report
Looking for an easy option vs. the hard work it really takes. We want it yesterday with little effort thus a magic pill sounds great but in reality hard work, changing habits and learning to love yourself emotionally is what will win success. I believe I am a professional dieter, it took me 10 years to figure out that the real thing was in my head and that I really knew what to do i just had to do it. I had to stop procrastinating, stop being lazy and get up off my couch put the tv remote away and start moving and watching my portions. I can eat most anything but I must watch the amount I eat, the types of things i eat more of vs less of and limit the fast food times. All in moderation, once i come to terms with this i started to lose consistently no more roller coaster, also learning how to deal with my emotions, frustrations without food. I'm not perfect, I will always struggle but it is how I chose to act. It is my choice ultimately. I have lsot 30# in the past 15 weeks and have alot to go still but i know i can do it. Hard work will get us there! Report
I don't think it's a lack of education about diet pills and products; I think it's a desperate desire to get that quick fix. I never have used diet pills and never will. I am too afraid of the strange side effects. It's not a billion dollar business for nothing. These manufacturers are out for one thing, and it's not to make people slim and healthy! As 2DIETORNOT2DIET (comment #62) says: the only thing that gets thinner is your wallet! Report
I have purchased diet pills in the past for varying reasons. It wasn't because I was lazy and didn't want to do it the right way. It was because I was doing a healthy eating plan and had hit a "wall". Do I think the are the best choice to use to lose weight probably not. I don't currently take them but will in the future who knows. I agree everybody when they say we need to learn to be smart about our health and weight. I guess it is just a personal choice. Report
I think people buy the pills because they are focused on losing the weight fast, not on keeping the weight off. Also, there is an element of "group think" and social relations that supports people buying diet pills and programs. "Join the fun and let's all lose weight, if I did, you can too!, it's fast its easy." (Just like the infomercials)

I've never bought them because I'm skeptical of most pills and supplements anyway. I read studies and try to get reputable information from science and medicine before spending my hard earned dollars on the latest health or weight loss fad.

I'm stubborn and resistant to things being "sold" to me. Report
I've tried a number of diet pills over the years. A few of those have actually worked, at least to some extent, but I'd say the ones that resulted in the most weight loss were also the ones that had very unpleasant side effects, like jitters, nausea, sweating, insomnia and irritability, because the most effective one for me contained ephedra or ephedrine. Basically herbal speed. Most have worked at least a little, but that could have been more of a mental placebo effect. As for ads, of course I don't believe any ridiculous claims like "lose 20 pounds in two weeks!" but at the same time, I think "well I doubt it'll make me lose 20 pounds in two weeks, but it MIGHT make me lose 10." For me, every little bit counts, so I figure even if it just gives me a slight edge in losing weight, it's worth it, and I think that's why most people buy diet pills. Nobody in their right mind believes that you can buy weight loss in a pill, especially "lose a pound a day" or some absurd claim like that, but if they're like me, they believe that it might raise your metabolism just a fraction, and might make the things they do anyway (diet & exercise) more effective than if they do the same thing without the pills. Report
I've tried em all. They don't work. There is no magic pill. Report
Some people really are doing everything right and still aren't losing weight. Not laziness so much as desperation.

Something else I noticed - people taking the diet drugs lost the same amount of weight as people taking a placebo. And how much weight was that? Isn't that saying that the pills do work at some level? As ACIMPeggy observed, much is in our minds. Leaving aside the possible health detriment of the pills, which some of you have had. If taking a pill, sugar or otherwise, causes me to change my attitude such that I ultimately lose weight, I'd say the pill "worked." Report
I believe its more laziness than anything, those ads make you believe you can lose the weight without exercising and eating anything you want. That part is always in the fine print "with diet and exercise". What actually end sup happening is you take the pills go crazy eating because you think the pills will solve everything and end up gaining more weight from not exercising. Report
I was very tempted to buy diet pills, a friend of mine has just bought some and swears by them, but after reading all these comments i think i will be trying my best to stay with THE SPARK TEAM AND ALL THE TEAM MEMBERS to me youare all wonderful and full of great information and ideas. Keep up the good work. Report
Isn't it just a question of just wanting to take the easy route? Remember, no pain, no gain! Report
for the same reason we believe in chemo for cancer, or any other meds given for every physical or mental ailment. WE LIVE IN HOPE. we can't believe we are being 'played' or 'duped'. some things have an effect on other things - some things have a minimal efficacy and then there is the plain old 'snake oil cure all' that we HOPE will do what it claims. buyer beware and all that - yes . but guess what? WHEN WE HOPE, WE DREAM and that's where they get us. GOTCHA!!!! it is not right, but it will never change, cause every new generation is fair game. BB Report
Our minds cannot accept the simplicity of "Eat less, move more, lose weight!" Make a magic pill that could make that happen and the rest, as they say, will be history! Report
Probably it's the same reason's drug addicts give, alcoholic's give, obsessive compulsives give, we have an eating disorder addiction issue, doesn't matter how "smart" we are at all. Why do people who have weight loss surgery gain weight back, no matter how good "skinny feels", as the old old saying goes?? The ad people feed on people's needs, right or wrong, and make money off of them. It's been going on for a long time, no end in sight. Government making diet "rules" will only make food more alluring, more important, and cost more. Report
Diet pills seem like a quick fix--- no mess --no fuss---have a pill---don't eat--feel good -at first------but------- they don't work in the long run and we all know that ---- so, for me, that is why Spark is a "'God Send""---- all that healthy information bombarding your brain, and it works----It eventually makes sense---- Its a slower way to weight--Its a harder way to lose--but you feel so good as the pounds start to go! Report
Diet pills seem like a quick fix--- no mess --no fuss---have a pill---don't eat--feel good -at first------but------- they don't work in the long run and we all know that ---- so, for me, that is why Spark is a "'God Send""---- all that healthy information bombarding your brain, and it works----It eventually makes sense---- Its a slower way to weight--Its a harder way to lose--but you feel so good as the pounds start to go! Report
I go by two things:
- Buyer beware.
- If it sounds too good to be true don't buy. Report
As someone who was on and off diet pills in her twenties and thirties, I looked at them as "consistency insurance," because I didn't feel I could do the job myself on a healthy diet. So I ate 600-800 calories, took stimulant diet pills, lost a lot of weight, then sleep, and then I regained the weight. For me, at least, they were utter crap, and I got the heart palpitations and higher blood pressure they sometimes deliver, too. I found them to be an utterly rotten idea. Report
We buy into junk like that because we have become an instantanious society. We want everything now including fast food, fast service, fast everything. So of course we expect a way to get fast weight loss and fast health. Report
We all do it we try supplements, liquid diet drinks, bars that predict to satisfy your appetite, water pill that only shead water weight, and other substances like colon clean etc. These products entice the persons labled as OBESE or MORBIDLY OBESE as they want to loose the weight and the disease processes that can accompany being overweight. We do this as we are tired of being teased and taunted, feeling like an outcast, or wanting to prove to ourselves and others that we can do something about our weight that we are not lazy and just insist to overeat and gain more and more weight. What we don't look at is the damage that these products can do to our bodies. Remember the heart problems that were found to be linked to a popular weight loss pill (you know the one I speak of). We all need to look into the side effects these medications cause and the damage some of the ingredients can cause later down the line. We must not subject ourselves to believing that what is sometimes genetic and sometimes just poor eating habits that may be do lack of money and other such limitations is not going to go away by drinking a solution, taking a pill, or munching on a bar. These are just ways that big corporations make their money and the only thing that gets smaller is your wallet or bank account. Love yourself enough to diet sensibly eat nutritious foods, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly (an by the way exercise does not have to be going to the gym) exercise can be fun things dancing, swimming, bowling and other sports find something you like to do and exercise will not be such a chore. Love yourselves enough to make healthy decisions about how you loose the weight and remember you did not gain it all in one day, one week, or one month and these pills, bars,liquids etc. will NOT make it go away that fast it is all a marketing strategy. Don't fall for the lies. Report
IMHO, I have long believed that almost everything is ALL IN OUR MIND. If we BELIEVE it will work, it will...Studies? They always go the way the people doing the study want them to go...that's why they contradict each other...

That would be the day, I'd buy diet pills. Back when I was young, in my 20's, I did take a few. They make your heart race......you can't sleep, or concentrate. What you need to do, is eat less, and exercise more, and you'll feel like a million bucks. what could be better than that! Report
It's hard being a food addict or letting food control us instead of us controlling the food. I think people (myself included) have tried the 'magic' pills (but I don't waste my money or my health on them anymore) want to find something that 'magically' helps one eat the right portions and make them able to pass on eating so often. We need our bodily function that lets us know when we're hungry...but we need to differeniate between hungry and emotional eating or reacting when we see, smell, or think about food.

The tried-and-true method of eating healthy (and less probably), exercising (or exercising more/ or with more intensity), drinking plenty of water, and getting proper rest is the ONLY way to do it and KEEP it off. That's what SP 'preaches' to the choir (us) daily.

There is no 'magic' pill. The only thing you lose is thickness in your wallet and that's NOT necessary...just keep following SP. Report
I think one reason people buy them is the same reason they buy lottery tickets. They know the odds of winning but they think maybe, just maybe, they'll be lucky. Same with the diet pills. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be the one that they will work on. The possibility of getting lucky is very seductive to some. Report
"Diet Pills' Are a BIG waste of your money!!
All you are doing is making the company of these SO CALLED diet aids RICH!!! Report
the only thing that gets thinner is your wallet. Report
Everyone is looking for the magic bullet and a quick fix. Easier to take a pill than to get out there and do the work. Report
I think that while most people know they won't help that much, they're latching onto that teeny tiny possibility that they DO jumpstart efforts. The problem is that these pills do more than not help, they actually cause HARM to the body! People aren't thoroughly educated at all about the potential risks of these products. Report
Never tried them, don't believe in them, besides I have Sparkpeople, I don't need anything else!!
James Report
I actually have like 3 different brands of diet pills in my cabinet...took like 1-2 of each before i stopped using them...I know that they wont work for keeping the weight off...but its those desperate depressing times when I say to my self "just take them till you find the energy to do it on your own". Then a day will go by and I snap out of it...and if it's not diet pills I'm buying I'm ordering exercise equipment from HSN...the last thing I bought 2 months ago is the Tony Little easyshaper...Used it 0 times so far...everything seems so easy on tv but when i get it it's like the magic is all gone... Report
I think the issue lies in desperation, in that people want to think that something is making a difference, even if it doesn't. Report
I was someone that tried a lot of different kinds of quick fixes. Then a few years ago found out I had a very rare heart condition. Now I don't touch them and am not even temped. I guess people need a wakeup call of their own. Report
I've often been tempted to buy weight loss pills--the closest I've gotten to that is "Hoodia", which is supposed to help stave off the appetite between meals. I also have "slimming" tea.
I'm guilty of it. I buy Weight Conscious multivitamins. I don't buy the brand name but I still buy 'em. Report
I have sometimes considered using them just for energy sakes. But I always know that in reality you can lose just as much keeping your diet in check and exercising. There is no quick fix, the only fix is you and your choices. Report
Its got to be for the quick fix we all want. Report
I have spent way to much money and time on all the different diet plans. I am too old to keep going back again and again which is why I am here. Report
After all the thousands I have spent over my "dieting" years, I have learned to RESIST the obvious. ALL the claims for the different diet schemes out there, are presented in a way to entice us in, those who are resistive more now than before. There are still those of us who succumb. ME, no more....give me eating right and exercise!!! THAT WORKS all the time, if you make it! Report
It's the "get rich quick" mentality, or something for nothing. No effort, no discipline (another word we don't like) and wanting the easy way out. Also the song in the Wizard of Oz comes to mind, "somewhere over the rainbow...." We need to deal with Kansas Dorothy, and work at it. Report
Pretty much everyone knows if you want to lose weight you need to eat better & exercise. But to be honest, before finding Spark, while I *thought* I was doing fine, I really had NO CLUE. I worked out maybe 3x a week, for a total of 2.5-3 hours, combining cardio & ST. But then I would eat more on account of being hungry, and not realizing that even if I was eating healthy, I was eating TOO MANY CALORIES. It's mind boggling now when you think of ALL the factors (sodium, fiber, protein vs. carb, how much ST & what kinds of cardio) and I think that's why people resort to pills. Personally, I was on phentermine for a brief period back in 2006. I had gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, and was depressed & frustrated that 2 years later there was still no progress being made.

I think it comes down being educated, and having the right tools available. There's a reason I spread the Spark whenever I can.....Education is POWER! Report
I think we do it because we secretly think, this ONE is going to work this time. I know that always has sucked me in, in the past. What I had to learn is that nothing is a substitute for good habits, discipline and a new attitude. We didn't gain it all in a few weeks, we won't lose it all in a few weeks. I am committed to doing it the RIGHT way with healthy food choices and exercise. The rest will take care of itself. Report
snake oil, baby...get's em every time Report
One of the first blogs I read after discovering SparkPeople was titled: You mean... there's no magic pill? What an eye-opener that was for me. What a deep revelation it was to figure out that every single ounce of excess weight on my body was placed there by my own hand. I was responsible for every forkful of food I'd eaten. Likewise, the only way the weight was coming off was by becoming responsible for eating and moving in healthier ways. The magic pill is personal responsibility, whether the area is our weight, our health, our relationships, our jobs, our homes. Report
I think people know they don't work, but they are hoping that for some reason it will work for them. Report
No expert ,but know people who do take tv programs as real .like the so called soap ones.to point they hate some of the people in the programs.As thou they are not playing a role ,but are like the person they protray,in the show.So if people believe this ,stands to reason they would believe the ads for whatever.And reality alot of people want your quick fix as the pills ,so they dont have to do the work,exercise and shop for healthy foods.As we live in so called fast world,people expect fast in things,save time type things so they think ,wow less time ,do more,get more.Sometimes its to bad we dont go back to basics.For more then not ,like the one going fast ,pasts you .down the road,he pasts you again,you get to light,and they are just in front of you.So were did the fast get them?what has the rat race got people?When I was young ,people enjoyed life alot more then they do now,which shows me modern is not all the time better,just as bigger is ,is not better more then not.OH Well such is life Report
Like a lot of other people on the message board, I have tried some diet pills in the past. Didn't like how they made me feel and of course lost weight but gained it back. It's taken alot for me to realize there is no quick fix. You have to put the work in if you want the weight loss to be permanent; no way around it. Report
I was taking diet pills a few years ago and thought i was doing great. I lost 30 pounds pretty quick. Then one day after work I was sitting in my recliner and started feeling like i was having a heart attack. AFter a couple of hours in the emergency room, I found out that I was having heart palapatations. My potassium was extremely low and all my other levels were out of whack. I had to have stress test and everything done. It took me a couple of months to recover. Doing it the safe way now. Report