No ‘quick fix’ to weight loss: UAE doctors warn of dangers of taking fat burners

The increasing use of fat burners has been a growing concern for healthcare professionals, who urge the public to adopt healthy lifestyle habits instead. The doctors’ comments came amid an increase in the use of weight loss drugs and supplements that have gained notoriety through TikTok trends.

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There is no “quick fix” for weight loss, doctors in the United Arab Emirates told Al Arabiya English, warning of the adverse effects of taking fat burners, as many in the Gulf nation turn to easier methods to drop a few kilos quickly.

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Doctors warned against taking shortcuts to lose weight, despite the temptation to do so, as it may cause more harm than good.

The increasing use of fat burners has been a growing concern for healthcare professionals, who urge the public to adopt healthy lifestyle habits instead.

“There is limited evidence that fat burners aid in weight loss. The majority of studies found no benefit to fat burners in terms of weight or body composition,” said Dr. Mohammad Fityan, Consultant Internal Medicine and HoD Weight Management Clinic, at Burjeel Medical City on Wednesday.

Another doctor, Dr. Ajith Kumar, Consultant Endocrinologist at Medeor Hospital in Dubai, said that people need to be aware of their underlying health issues and consult with a doctor before opting to take over-the-counter fat burners.

“Studies have shown that responses induced from weight-loss supplements were less effective than what is obtained through diet and exercise.”

“A large number of dietary supplements, which are intended for weight reduction or for reducing fat accumulation, act by stimulating lipolysis and inhibiting lipogenesis.

However, we are not sure if the dietary supplements, which we get over the counter are free of adulterants.”

“Many of them have harmful ingredients including Sibutramine and Diuretics that can cause dire health consequences,” Kumar explained.

Medications containing Sibutramine and Rimonabant have been either banned or withdrawn from the market due to health hazards.

Regulation concerns

“Dietary supplements are regulated as foods and not as drugs by the US FDA, so the manufacturers are not required to provide safety data to the regulator. Herbal and dietary supplements such as Usnic acid, some so-called green tea extracts, and guggul tree extracts have been linked to significant liver damage,” Kumar said.

“CLA is marketed as a fat burner, but there have been reports of diabetes caused by long-term use in some people.”

The use of fat burners can have a range of side effects on the average healthy person.

Some common side effects include nausea, headaches, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and digestive problems.

Fat burners can also interfere with medications and cause adverse reactions, which can lead to serious health complications. Its use in the long-term can cause damage to vital organs.

But those with significant cardiovascular, renal, or liver disease, are at a particularly high risk and should avoid these medicines “at all costs,” said Kumar, adding that while the risks associated with taking fat burners was not “extensive” or “irreversible” in a healthy population, “there is still no guarantee” that it is safe to take.

“Many fat burners have been linked to severe liver damage and liver failure. A careful selection of the contents of these products, with the assistance of your physician, may be a safe option,” Kumar said.

No ‘quick fix’

Group of women running for exercise. (Unsplash, Fitsum Admasu)
Group of women running for exercise. (Unsplash, Fitsum Admasu)

Dr. Fityan said “there is no “quick fix” when it comes to losing weight.”

“It is a process that involves a comprehensive behavioral and lifestyle changes that might be combined with medications in specific patients.”

The doctors’ comments came amid an increase in the use of weight loss drugs and supplements that have gained notoriety through TikTok trends.

The use of Ozempic, Saxenda, and Metformin, which are promoted as miracle cures for shedding excess kilos, has become prevalent among social media users.

“Metformin is not a weight loss medication and causes only minor weight loss. Ozempic is an effective medication that is primarily used to treat diabetes and helps those patients lose weight. Saxenda is approved for use in obese patients to help them lose weight even if they do not have diabetes,” Fityan explained.

Apart from causing adverse side effects, it also led to global shortages which put diabetics and people with certain health problems at risk.

Only four approved drugs are presently available for regulating or reducing body weight; these include: Orlistat (a reversible gastric and pancreatic lipase inhibitor) with poor efficacy; Naltrexone/bupropion (a combination of opioid receptor antagonist, and catecholamine uptake inhibitor) with potential neurological adverse events; the injectable GLP-1 analogs Liraglutide (Victoza or Saxenda); and Semaglutide (Ozempic/Wegovy).

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