Why Are Diet Pills Not Meant for People Under 18?

By Chris Daniels ; Updated July 18, 2017

The label of every brand of diet pill warns that use can be dangerous for people younger than 18. Diet pills can contain plant extract or combinations of nutrients intended to alter the hormonal balance in the body to aid weight loss. These changes may include increasing testosterone or thyroid hormones. In a developing adolescent, changing hormone levels can cause irreparable defects that may not appear in an adult whose body is no longer developing. Those under 18 may not be able to fully evaluate the benefits and risks of diet pills.

Teens vs. Adults

During puberty, substantial physical and hormonal changes occur. Your body matures physically and sexually, developing secondary sex characteristics. These changes depend on an orderly series of hormones secreted by the pituitary gland, the testes or ovaries, thyroid gland, adrenal glands and hypothalamus.

Effects on Development

Many of the hormones targeted by diet pills are involved in maturation processes during puberty. During puberty, your body is adjusting levels or hormones such as testosterone and estrogen to find an ideal level. Chemicals in diet pills can disrupt this adjustment, leaving hormones at inappropriate levels through adulthood. Disruptions in hormones can prematurely end puberty. Artificially elevating levels of adrenal and thyroid hormones to stimulate weight loss may make it more difficult for teens to lose weight later in life.

Psychological Risk Factors

Teens may be more likely to take more than the recommended dose of diet pills than adults. Peer pressure, upcoming events and other social factors may push a teen to take dangerous risks with diet pills. If you are a parent of a teen looking to lose weight, don't simply forbid diet pills. Teens are learning to express themselves and will likely take diet pills behind your back. Honestly discuss risks of diet pills with your teen and be willing to alter your own diet and exercise habits to encourage weight loss.

Helping Teens Lose Weight

Childhood and the teenage years are critical for developing healthy habits. Learn to cook vegetables so that you enjoy eating them. Replace junk food with healthy snack such as fruit. Find a certified fitness professional such as a personal trainer to teach safe and effective exercise techniques. Add more physical activity outside of exercise to family life, such as walking after dinner.

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