Are Diet Pills Worth it?

The dangerous side effects of short term weight loss

The process of sewing tubes into people’s skin to remove waste from their bodies is called dialysis.

Most people seek out dialysis to treat diabetes and high blood pressure, but for Roberta Goldberg, 63, — it was the desire to be thin.

“Along with extremely high blood pressure, I got into the deadly habit of taking diet pills and meal supplements after I had children,” Goldberg said.

Dietary supplements such as Apidren, Phytodren and MyoShred may provide a temporary solution to weight loss, but they can lead to to kidney failure and life threatening illness according to Steven Gabardi, assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Molly Wieland, a 19-year-old student at DePaul University says that weight loss supplements instilled an unhealthy desire to lose weight.

“I began to see a lot of ads on TV about how effective dietary supplements are and how easily weight is lost and I began taking them everyday so I would eat less before summer,” Wieland said. “I developed a form of a body image disorder that I blame now on social media and the world I live in where being comfortable in your body is an obstacle many have to now overcome.”

“Appetite suppressants and medications have always had their problems in the past. Some are associated with pulmonary hypertension which causes even worse problems,” Dr. Chuck Smith, an anesthesiologist at his private clinic, said. “It is a well known fact that the initial round of dietary supplements cause pulmonary hypertension and were pulled from the market, the next generation of dietary supplements may have caused kidney failure.”

This can be shown in one of many medical studies by Yonsei Medical Journal on Pulmonary Hypertension which shows the use of diet pills, including phentermine and other anorexigens to be responsible, even in extremely short-term cases. The study discusses a case where a 29 year old woman who was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension had been taking phentermine for three months and it was concluded the short-term appetite suppressant was the culprit. In the words of Yonsei Medical Journal and the authors associated, the medications classified as anorexigens have a positive correlation linking the development of pulmonary hypertension and other heart diseases.

Wieland began experiencing severe health complications that were later linked to declining kidney failure.

“After taking the medication for about 11 months, I started having symptoms related to kidney failure and when it got so bad that I had to consult with my doctor, he informed me on the dangers of taking medication that tampers with weight loss,” Wieland said. “He explained to me that this contributed to poisoning my kidneys, and if I continued onward with taking the pills I would end up having to go through weekly, or even daily, dialysis at a very early point in my life.” As a young student, Wieland has time to fix the status of her health, while Goldberg isn’t as lucky with time.

The contributions from society’s expectations of what bodies should look like affects all types of women, and they could be fatal. While age and treatment are not on Goldberg’s side, Wieland has a chance to change the course of her fate.

“After I had my first child at 28, I went from a size 2 to a size 10 and gained 40 pounds,” Goldberg said. “My father-in-law made a comment about my obvious weight gain and it was then that I lost it.”

The comment transformed Roberta’s thinking into unhealthy compulsions fueled by the desire to be skinny, she said.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 states that dietary supplements are not required to undergo premarket safety and efficacy testing, according to Steven Gabardi in A Review of Dietary Supplement-Induced Renal Dysfunction in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.  The lack of regulation directly affects many women who are unaware of the life threatening consequences that come even a year after regular consumption.

“The last thing I wanted was to end up having to go through some of the extreme measures patients with kidney failure do, like dialysis,” Wieland said. “I got help and turned my life around for the better and for a hopeful future with my health.”

Just one year of dialysis can cost at the highest between $52,000-$72,000 depending on the form of treatment.

“Basically [dialysis patients] have no life other than having to get dialysis,” said Smith. “It’s usually three times a week and can take up to five hours for each run, obviously you cannot hold a job or obligation with that type of responsibility.”

“It was never worth it,” Goldberg said. “The pain I experience now and medical expenses have me kicking myself for thinking the years of taking diet medication wouldn’t kill me like it is now.”