One of the greatest struggles for individuals who are overweight or obese is suppressing one's appetite to control food consumption, which can prove difficult or downright impossible through sheer willpower alone. For this reason, dieters have long wished they could trick their minds and bodies into feeling satiated so that they no longer crave destructive foods. In 2013, Arena Pharmaceuticals released a weight loss drug called Belviq which promised to help dieters overcome this hurdle. The pill is intended to suppress the appetite and allow individuals to resume a sensible diet that encourages weight loss. But does Belviq work? Learn the truth about the effectiveness of Belviq for weight loss—as well its eyebrow-raising risks.
How Does Belviq Work?
Belviq is intended for people who are obese—that is, with a body mass index of 30 or higher, or who are overweight, with a BMI of 27 or above. In addition, candidates for Belviq should also have at least one weight-related condition, whether Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. In these individuals, Belviq can suppress the appetite by activating serotonin receptors in the brain. You may have heard that serotonin is the neurotransmitter involved with mood, but it can also control the appetite by initiating the feeling of satiety, or satisfaction. In fact, the company behind Belviq claims that Belviq specifically seeks out the serotonin receptors that affect appetite. When your drive to eat is reduced, so are your cravings for eating more.
What is the Effectiveness of Belviq for Weight Loss?
In theory, the logic behind Belviq would appear to lead to weight loss. But does Belviq work? Clinical trial data that Arena submitted to the FDA indicated that approximately half of dieters without Type 2 diabetes who used Belviq lost at least 5% of their initial weight over a year, compared with 23% of those on a placebo. In a trial by the BLOOM group, however, patients who lost ≥5% of their body weight after a year on the drug were randomized to continue the drug or switch to placebo for a second year. By the end of the second year, patients still on the drug regained 25% of their initial loss, while those who took the drug during the first year and placebo during year 2 lost only 1.2 kg more than those on a placebo during both years.
Similarly, a study published in Obesity found that those on the drug lost slightly more weight than those on the placebo. However, whether longer use of the drug would enable more and sustained weight reduction was yet to be determined. Due to the indeterminate conclusion about the effectiveness of Belviq for weight loss in the long-term, and its risks, Consumer Reports published an article recommending skipping Belviq.
What are the Risks of Belviq for Weight Loss?
Like all drugs, Belviq poses risks including side effects like dizziness, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and constipation. If you have diabetes, additional adverse effects include hypoglycemia, cough, and back pain. More worrisome, however, are the potential for side effects like a slowed heartbeat, heart valve problems, or serotonin syndrome—a potentially life-threatening condition. In addition, the company itself makes the proclamation that it is not known if the drug is safe and effective when taken with other prescriptions, over-the-counter, or herbal weight-loss products, or whether the drug changes your risk of heart problems, stroke, or even fatality.
The questionable long-term effectiveness of Belviq, as well as its risks, only bolsters the notion that there is no magic bullet to weight loss. If you're averse to the many purported pharmaceutical solutions for weight loss, turn to bistroMD for a diet plan that doesn't rely on pills, supplements, or gimmicks—only hearty, healthy meals backed by the tried-and-true science of clean eating.