Weight loss treatments that actually work

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In Australia, 67 per cent of adults are overweight or obese. The percentage of overweight people increases in older age brackets. As you get older your metabolism, body composition and hormones change, meaning that losing weight after 40 can be an uphill battle.

Having more muscle mass raises your metabolism, meaning you burn more calories. As you age you begin to lose muscle mass, making it harder to maintain a stable weight. Hormonal changes associated with menopause can also make it more difficult to lose weight.

For many people, making healthy eating choices and active lifestyle changes is enough to help them find and maintain a stable weight. Some diets that have been associated with healthy weight loss include the 5:2 fasting diet, a diet rich in superfoods, and the yo-yo diet. If you are struggling to find a healthy diet that works for you, consult your doctor or dietician.

However, it can be hard to lose weight with lifestyle changes alone. This is especially true for obese Australians.

CHOICE has researched the most effective medical weight loss treatments to support healthy lifestyle changes. They concluded that there are two main options including medication and very low energy diet or meal replacement programs.

Very low energy diet (VLED)
Popular VLED brands include Optifast, KicStart, Tony Ferguson and Optislim. These diets contain very little energy and are comprised of meal replacements including snack bars, soups and shakes. These products are low in carbohydrate, putting your body into a state of mild ketosis, where it burns fat for energy. A VLED diet can include up to 3350kj of energy, or 800 calories a day, and lasts for between eight and 16 weeks. Weight loss results are usually around 1.52.5kg a week.

While these products largely claim to contain all your nutritional needs, they are unregulated in Australia, making it difficult to know. According to CHOICE, a 2016 study of eight VLED diets found that none met the daily nutritional requirements. Protein, which is essential in retaining muscle during weight loss, was found to be particularly low in these products.

Side-effects of VLEDs include dry skin, sensitivity to the cold, low blood pressure, fatigue, dizziness, diarrhoea, muscle cramps, constipation, menstrual disturbances, irritability, gallstones and temporary rashes and hair loss. These don’t come cheap either. Although you’re saving money on buying food, these meal substitutes can cost around $7.50 to $10.50 a day, though there are more expensive options.

In Australia, no weight loss medications are government-subsidised on the PBS. The only medicines approved for weight loss in Australia are Duromine (phentermine), Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion), Saxenda (liguratide) and Xenical (orlistat).

These medications are generally associated with a weight loss of 35kg, and may also improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose. Your doctor may prescribe you weight loss medication if you have a condition such as type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, sleep apnoea, high cholesterol or high blood pressure and have a BMI of 2730. Otherwise, your doctor can prescribe these for people with a BMI over 30.

How they work

This amphetamine-like drug suppresses appetite and costs between $100 to $140 a month. Side-effects include heart palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, increased blood pressure and rapid heart rate.

This appetite suppressant can help you to lose around 5 per cent of your body weight in 16 weeks. Taking the full dose will cost your around $240 a month. Side-effects include insomnia, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, headache, dry mouth, constipation, diarrhoea and changes in the way you taste food. 

Saxenda is self-injected daily. It works by suppressing appetite and has been linked to weight loss of around 56kg. However, this medication costs around $400 a month and side-effects include vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and constipation. Other, more serious, side-effects include hypoglycaemia, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, suicidal thoughts and renal failure.

Xenical stops your body from absorbing up to 30 per cent of the fat you consume. It works best alongside an exercise routine and reduced-fat diet. It costs around $100 a month. Side effects include reduced vitamin absorption, headache, flatulence, seepage, diarrhoea, faecal incontinence and abdominal pain. You can eat no more than 40g of fat a day while on this medication.

It’s important to remember that medications are safer and more effective when taken alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise. For more information, or to find out if these medications are right for you, consult your doctor.

Do you think that weight loss medications should be subsidised by the government? Would you consider a VLED diet or taking prescribed medications to help with weight loss?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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Written by Liv Gardiner


Total Comments: 5
  1. 0

    I have tried several of those but don’t like the side effects. I also had a lap band years ago, that slipped and had to be removed as an emergency. Now I just work at it 24/7, stay as active as possible, and accept I will always be a big girl. Some of us are. But I am kind! (There are more important things).

  2. 0

    Easy for some, I suppose. Being hones is one big hurdle! (You say you are dieting and “trying to lose weight” but when you are alone?)
    I am 69 and retired. When I worked I was 100Kg for many years. No real need to lose weight as I didn’t consider myself “fat”. (I am 6′ 4″ tall so 100Kg is not exceptional) I also worked in a “physical” job where exercise was plentiful! Always out and about. I walked to most jobs rather than drove my car.
    But when I retired, I could see I would not get that amoount of compulsory exercise, so I reduced my food intake. Very simple really!
    The first 5 kilo’s fell off. That really enthused me to try harder. The next 5 kilo’s took a bit longer, but after a year I was down to 90 kilo’s. I weighed myself this morning: 89 kilo’s.
    Still a bit heavy for my height (Ideal weight for my height is 85 Kg).
    I exercise every day, and usually walk at least 2 hours (briskly!) each day.
    Maybe its heredity? Mum was very overweight when us kids were at home. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes many years ago. She controls that with diet and exercise (when she can). She is a bit underweight now at 55 kilo’s. But she IS 94 years old.

  3. 0

    Those VLED diets get so boring in a very short time, crave something more solid to eat

  4. 0

    Both those “diets” in the article above are very inappropriate. There are better diets which are not deficient or have nasty side effects. Eg, the fully keto diet, or if you can’t manage that then the LCHF diet is easy (Low Carbohydrate/High Fat):
    “The LCHF diet is a method of eating that focuses on reducing carbs and replacing them with healthy fats. The ketogenic diet and Atkins diet are examples of LCHF diets. Following an LCHF diet may aid weight loss, stabilize blood sugar, improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of heart disease.”
    And yes I do know people (including me) who have lost weight on the LCHF diet.

  5. 0

    Been on the CSIRO diet for 6 weeks, lost 7 kilo so far, 3 to go. Good way to change eating habits, 3 meals a day, great recipes, basically very low carb and fat, lots of vegetables, fruit and lean meat and fish. Also need to do some exercise. A few of my friends are also on the diet and losing weight. Give it a go!!



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