The Best Weight-Loss Pill for Women

The best way for women to lose weight is through a gradual process that involves moderate portion sizes, eating fewer foods with added sugars and saturated fats, and getting more exercise. In a society that values quick fixes, though, this process seems to take too long. A weight-loss pill, with its promises of fast weight loss and little work on your part, seems a savior. But, many of these pills have serious side effects including irritability, headache, fatigue, nausea and serious depression. Some weight-loss pills, when combined with a lower-calorie diet and more physical activity, may have benefit for long-term weight loss when a medical intervention is necessary, however.

Clinical Evidence

A review of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014 examined medications that are approved in the United States for treatment of obesity. The researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Institutes of Health found that, when these drugs were combined with lifestyle interventions, they produced greater weight loss over one year compared to when people used only lifestyle interventions. The researchers recommended that any patients who do not achieve meaningful weight loss with the pills -- defined as a minimum of 5 percent of body mass -- discontinue use to minimize the risks and costs.

Prescription Products

Certain weight-loss pills, as researched in a review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are prescription-only. These are prescribed when the risks of being overweight or obese are greater than the potential side effects of the pills. Among these, 35 to 75 percent of patients lost meaningful weight with orlistat and 37 to 47 percent with lorcaserin. Top-dose phentermine plus topiramate-extended release produced meaningful weight loss in 67 to 70 percent of patients. The researchers also noted that these three drugs did produce improvements in cardiovascular risk factors when compared to people who did not use the pills, but they did not show a reduction in death from cardiovascular causes.

Side Effects

Orlistat, lorcaserin and top-dose phentermine plus topiramate-extended release may be often prescribed by doctors and considered the best for helping with long-term weight loss. Understand, though, that these pills carry notable side effects. Lorcaserin, also known as Belviq, can cause a host of symptoms, including blurred vision, body aches, cold sweats, anxiety, dizziness, nightmares, seizures and even coma. Orlistat commonly causes stomach and back pain, loss of bowel control and oily spotting of the underwear. Phentermine/topiramate, known as Qsymia, can cause rapid heartbeat, changes in mood, increased anxiety, slowed brain function and birth defects if taken while pregnant.

These weight-loss pills are best only if they've been prescribed for you by a doctor who thinks it's in your best interest to lose weight quickly to prevent health complications from obesity.

Over-the-Counter Options

Over-the-counter weight-loss pills include medications and supplements that promise to suppress your appetite, provide you with unbridled energy and dissolve fat. Pills that make claims such as "clinically proven" do need some clinical support for their assertion -- but no detail on the size or quality of that study is specified. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must deem dietary supplements as "safe" before they can be sold, but it may take time before the FDA recognizes that a product needs to be pulled from the market. "Natural" doesn't necessarily mean a product is safe, either.

A study published in a 2011 issue of Gastroenterology Research and Practice shows weight-loss potential for pills containing extract of green coffee, but it calls for more definitive research. Another study of 70 participants -- of whom just 45 completed the whole trial -- published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2013 found promising results from a pill containing a mixture of supplements, including primarily raspberry ketone, caffeine, capsaicin, garlic, ginger and Citrus aurantium. The researchers concluded that more research to support the findings was necessary, however. Always consult with your doctor before taking any weight-loss supplement, and if you do decide to take one, couple it with other lifestyle practices that support good health and weight loss.