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How Does the Alli Weight Loss Pill Work?



According to manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline’s website, the Alli weight loss pill was approved by the FDA for over-the-counter use in 2007.  Since that time, millions of people have used it to lose weight.  The Alli weight loss pill, or Xenical Orlistat as it’s known in a prescription form, is recommended only for those who are medically labeled as obese or who are at least 25 pounds overweight.

How it works

Lipase inhibitors such as the Alli weight loss pill work to prevent your body from absorbing fat.  Wikipedia explains that lipase is a digestive enzyme.  When orlistat (the active component of Alli) works, it disables lipase from breaking down fat.  This means that, regardless of what or how much you eat, about a quarter of the fat in the food will exit your body in your bowel movements.  And, while this means that you can essentially have whatever you like for dinner, it also means that not keeping the fat content of what you eat in mind can lead to unpleasant accidents.

Side effects

That side effect is one of the most widely known, and unpleasant, of Alli weight loss pills.  And, it represents one of the biggest reasons the Alli weight loss pill remains controversial with many doctors.  Some fear that it will, like many other diet pills, be used by those for whom it’s not intended.  Others, such as WebMD, cite concerns that it will be used improperly and lead to digestive or elimination problems.  If you are moderately overweight, the Alli weight loss pill is not for you.  It is only intended for those diagnosed as medically obese and who have not succeeded with other weight loss or diet plans.


Used correctly, however, the Alli weight loss pill has remarkable success rates.  According to Women’s Day, people using it report fifty percent more weight loss than those who only modify their diets.  If you combine using Alli with a sensible diet plan and exercise, the average weight loss is at least 15 pounds over a period of six months.  While using Alli, you will need to carefully monitor the fat content of the foods you eat but, beyond that, you will still be able to eat the foods you love without worrying about their caloric content.

Supply Issues

In 2012, supplies of Alli, and its prescription-strength counterpart Xenical, dried up due to problems with its manufacture.  Its maker found alternative sources and restarted distribution later in 2012.  Also in 2012, production of a generic version, named Orlistat after Alli’s active ingredient, began.