Alli (Orlistat) diet pill is a new ally in weight loss

A new ally in weight loss
By Walter Ang
December 7, 2009
Manila Bulletin

The latest report from the Food and Nutrition Institute indicates that the incidence of being overweight is on the rise with 21.4% of Filipino adults weighing significantly more than they should. "The prevalence of obesity has risen 24.9 percent since 1998," says endocrinologist Dr. Cristina Chua.

She goes on to note that being overweight increases the risk of developing several serious health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, among many others. Aside from physical problems, being overweight can also affect one's self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.

Dr. Chua points out that lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity (read: exercise) are the key factors in weight loss. The trick, she shares, is in setting realistic targets. "Aim for 5-10% reduction in weight over six months," she adds.

An ally
To help Filipinos jumpstart their weight-loss efforts, drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has introduced weight loss aid Alli to the local market. "For every two pounds you lose on your own, Alli helps you lose one pound more. It will partner with you towards your journey to gradual, steady, sustainable weight-loss," says senior brand manager Gio Robles.

Alli's active ingredient is orlistat, which works by combining with the enzymes in your digestive system to prevent the fat you eat from being absorbed by your body. "When taken three times a day, Alli blocks about 25% of the fat you eat," he says. "Fat is the most calorie-dense food, so preventing the absorption of some of it while eating reduced-calorie, lower-fat meals helps you lose weight."

When taking Alli, the unabsorbed fat passes naturally out of the body. Most people have heard of horror stories of the side effects of taking orlistat that would need extreme measures such as wearing adult-diapers. However, this side-effect only happens when one eats large amounts of fatty food and should instead serve as motivation to eat less fatty food.

He says that the target duration of using Alli is usually around six months. "The assumption is that during this time, the user would have gotten used to the lifestyle changes and would have reached their targeted weight loss. However, they can opt to continue using it if they wish to lose more weight."

He adds, "Alli has had success in the United States and Europe because of the program it offers. Each Alli starter pack contains a weight loss program that includes a one-week meal plan, a healthy eating guide, and tips for a healthy lifestyle."

A Pinoy menu
Registered nutritionist Virgith Buena of Cardinal Santos Medical Center designed the eating menu and includes food items that Filipinos actually eat such as pan de sal and chicken tocino for breakfast, daing na bangus and sinampalukang manok for main courses, and even leche flan for dessert.

"This nutrition plan is not a deprivation diet. Users can continue to enjoy their favorite food, but in moderate amounts. You don't eliminate fat completely with this meal plan because the right amount of fat helps the body absorb vitamins and perform other essential functions," Buena says. "This eating plan is different from many other common diets in several ways. It allows you more calories a day than many others do and it allows you to eat three meals a day, plus a snack, if desired. However, while you can choose any food you like, it has to fall within your fat and calorie targets."

She points out that making nutritious choices is not complicated. "Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods are rich sources of necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber. Look for the words `whole grains' or `whole' in the ingredient list on food packages. Keep fruits and vegetables on hand for instant grab-and-go eating. Drink low-fat or fat-free milk. Select lean meats, fish and poultry."

As an added tip, Beuna notes that one must learn to distinguish between hunger and thirst. "You may think you're hungry when, in fact, you're just thirsty."

In addition to changes in diet, users of Alli are also encouraged to increase their physical activity. Jim Saret, coach and fitness and consultant says, "You don't need to enroll in a gym, as long as you do some kind of physical activity where you feel `challenged,' you will already be on your way."

He also advises, "Some people find it difficult to change their eating and exercise habits. They may occasionally slip. The awareness of slipping is a positive sign compared to before when they didn't care if they did. The conscious effort to do better the next day is the beginning of changing one's lifestyle."

For additional movitation, users can log on to for online support. "There are tools and advice on the website to help you adjust to eating reduced calorie and lower-fat meals, as well as a list of physical activities to help you burn calories. You also get to interact with other Alli users in the online discussion forum where you can share tips and help motivate each other," says senior brand manager Gio Robles.