By Dr. Manny Alvarez –FoxNews.com
Today’s teens have tremendous pressure to embody the perfect life—beauty, social status, and intelligence—all while coping with emotional, hormonal, and physical changes. To keep up with all the pressure, many teens turn to quick answers for beauty and body image, including diet pills. What they don’t realize, or carelessly dismiss, are the dangers lurking behind these unregulated pills.
First of all, teens often turn to diet pills when they are unwilling to change their eating habits. They may see their friends choosing unhealthy options and feel pressure to do the same. In time, the unhealthy foods will take their toll on the teens’ weight and appearance, and then they look for a way to trim down.
This vicious cycle of social pressure and negative body image affects teens everywhere, and it does not rule out celebrity teens with the “perfect life.” Recently, Tia Mowry opened up about her body image struggles as a teen, including the fact that she took diet pills. Like so many other teens, Mowry started the pills because she had unhealthy foods at her disposal.
Unfortunately, the diet pills did not help her learn good eating habits, and the teen star suffered several health issues, including infertility later on. After discovering that the star had endometriosis, Mowry’s doctor informed her that she should stop eating dairy if she wanted to get pregnant. The dairy products caused inflammation which triggered abdominal pain and potentially led to her infertility.
Motivated by her desire for a baby, Mowry did just what her doctor recommended, completely transforming her diet. After a year of healthy eating, she realized not only that she felt better and enjoyed the healthy foods, but that she would also soon be a mother. Her doctor connected her newfound fertility to her healthy eating habits, no thanks to the diet pills she took as a teen.
Risk of Abuse and Overdosing
Another huge problem with teens using diet pills is the risk of abuse, even if the teen has a prescription. Many diet pills contain ingredients that will harm people and even cause death if a person takes too many at once. Because teens take them with the motivation to lose weight, they often consume more than the dosage on the label.
One young woman, Eloise Parry, had this motivation when she purchased diet pills with a chemical compound known as DNP in them. While the ingredient has been banned for decades, it has found its way back into the pills, and young adults can easily get it online. In addition to taking diet pills, Parry also struggled with bulimia.
One night, the college student spent the evening binging and purging. Early in the morning, she took four diet pills at once before going to sleep. When she awoke, she took another four pills and began vomiting soon after. Unfortunately, Parry died that afternoon. This intelligent student knew the dangers of the diet pills she was taking, but she considered her weight more important.
Urged on by the promise of quick weight loss, other teens can easily abuse diet pills as well, risking their lives. While Parry knew the dangers she was heading into, other teens may not have as much knowledge about the pills’ harmful effects.
In the past decade, several diet pill brands have come under observation for causing adverse reactions. Some of these pills help people lose weight by causing more frequent bowel movements or by boosting their heart rate. These pills often do their job too well, causing dependence on the pills for bowel function and spiking heart rates too high.
In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration discovered that 69 different diet pills contained unlisted ingredients that could cause dangerous situations like seizures and strokes. While the FDA began investigations into many of these brands, there are likely still companies who include these ingredients in their products.
People simply should not risk their health by using diet pills. While they promise easy weight loss, teens will not learn proper eating habits and nutrition by taking them. If the teen has an unhealthy body image or eating disorder, the diet pill will only mask the deeper issue. In addition, these pills often contain harmful chemicals that have caused serious side effects, including death. Teens should stay away from diet pills altogether, and parents should stay alert for any signs of weight obsessions and diet pill use.
This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.