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Risk of Diet Pills for Children

By Christa Miller ; Updated July 18, 2017

Some diet pill bottles make big promises like, “Lose 10 lbs. in just two days!” and “Get thin without exercising!” If others tease you at school for being overweight, you might be tempted to try a pill to help you lose pounds as fast as possible. However, most diet pills don’t work well by themselves because exercise and healthy eating are important parts of losing weight. Also, diet pills can be harmful for children’s growing bodies.

Available Prescriptions

Very few diet pills have approval for use by children. A prescription weight-loss pill called Orlistat, which helps block the amount of fat your belly absorbs, has approval for kids who are at least 12 years old. Other than that, there are no prescription weight-loss pills approved for anyone under 16. However, as of 2011, research suggests that obese children at risk of developing diabetes may safely lose weight if they take a diabetes prescription medication called Metformin.

The Risk

As a child, your body is smaller and more sensitive to most prescription weight-loss medications than adult bodies are. Also, some weight-loss medicines prevent your body from taking in fat from foods, which can prevent you from absorbing some vitamins that help you grow properly in childhood, according to the My Overweight Child website. Another problem is that you would have to take prescription diet pills for a long time to keep up the results, and researchers don’t know if those medications eventually could harm your body.

Warning About Over-the-Counter Pills

Most diet pills you can find at a store are not for anyone under 18 years old. Even the “natural” types of pills may cause side effects as gas, diarrhea, a fast heart rate or even more serious heart problems. These symptoms may even occur in adult bodies, but can be more dangerous when you have a smaller body that is still growing. Also, because pills at the store are not well studied, they may not help you lose weight even if they claim they will.

A Healthier Choice

Have a talk with your parents and your doctor if you have any questions about your current weight. Your doctor can give you special tests to assure you’re growing properly and not gaining too much weight. If she thinks you have too many pounds on your body, she may recommend that you stay at your current weight to even things out as you get taller. If you have already gone through a big growth spurt she may recommend that you try to lose some weight through healthier habits such as getting an hour of exercise each day, cutting back on junk foods and eating more fruits and vegetables.

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