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Alli—Does this Drug Help Us Lose Weight and If So, are the Side Effects Worth it?

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As you may have noticed, it’s not too hard to find a drug or supplement that claims it can help you lose weight. While some weight-loss medications need to be purchased through a prescription from your physician, most can be purchased over-the-counter at your local supermarket or drug store.

One weight loss aid that has received quite a bit of press (some good, and honestly, quite a bit that isn’t so great) is Alli. But then again, any medication that comes with a laundry list of possible side effects including “gas with an oily anal discharge” is bound to get peoples’ attention. But I’m getting ahead of myself here—before we get to the potential side effects, let’s start off by taking a closer look at what Alli is, and how it works.

Alli is a reduced-strength version of orlistat, a drug that helps treat obesity. When sold as a prescription, orlistat goes by the name of Xenical. Alli is meant for overweight adults over the age of 18, and it is intended to be combined with a healthy, low-fat diet and an exercise program.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, Alli works by reducing the amount of fat that is absorbed by the intestines, which in turn reduces the number of calories that your body will absorb. More specifically, Alli gets into the digestive tract and prevents lipase, a naturally-occurring enzyme, from doing its job of breaking down fats from the foods we eat. So with lipase not allowed to do its job, the fats just keep on heading down through the intestines and are eliminated.

You can take Alli up to three times a day, and because of its effect on fat processing, you are only supposed to eat up to 15 grams of fat with each meal. If you eat more than this, you can run into the not-so-pleasant side effect noted above, as well as diarrhea and the urgent need to get to a bathroom immediately to have a bowel movement (which is fine if you’re at home, but if you are on a long line at Target waiting to check out, it could cause some problems).

Additional side effects, according to the Drugs.com website, include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

So, does Alli work?

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Alli is a horrible product. I only lost a small amount of weight, and even then, the stomach discomfort was not even close to worth it. There are much better alternatives out there. I switched over to the Lady Soma Detox and started dropping weight like crazy..and my stomach feels much better. Alli is a joke.

April 10, 2016 - 5:58pm
HERWriter Guide

Hey Alison

I tried Alli two years ago, along with a low fat diet and I lost no weight on it at all.

And the side effects were miserable! Never again! It is not a supplement I'd recommend but I'm sure it may work for some.

I'm back to my pre-baby weight by lowering my caloric intake and staying active. What a crazy concept!


July 28, 2010 - 11:52am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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