Weight-loss methods

Slimming centres 

  •        How they work 

    Different centres use different methods, including diets, body wraps, ultrasound technology and slimming creams.  

  •        Side-effects 

    A hole in your finances? 

  •        What the experts say 

    “Some centres use methods to induce thermogenesis (the process in which your body burns calories to produce energy). At the most, this can work for 24 hours. I’d say that people who lose weight from slimming centres are probably those who watch their diet as well,” says Dr Winnie. 

    “Some of these centres have qualified nutritionists and dietitians providing advice to their clients, emphasising also on regular exercise. I would urge such centres, and its customers, to rely on proven methods for weight loss and maintenance,” says Dr Tee. 

    Fat burners 

  •        How they work 

  •        Side effects 

    No adequate clinical trials have been performed to show efficacy or adverse effects. 

  •        What the experts say 

    According to Dr Winnie, claims made by fat burners are unfounded. “There is no proof to show whether fat burners work. For example, lecithin just works like a fat transport.” 


    Fat blockers 

  •        How they work 

    Block the absorption of fat and eliminate it through the bowels. 

  •        Side-effects 

    Loose stool, faecal incontinence, oily spotting and flatus with discharge. 

  •        What the experts say 

    “There is some evidence for fat-blockers, but I have not come across any long-term studies that show sustained weight loss. People who take fat-blockers assume that they can eat anything they want if they pop a pill. But the drugs (that have been approved) are based on trials that use exercise and diet control as well,” says Dr Winnie. 

    “One concern with fat blockers is probably that fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids are not absorbed as well. Hence, professional advice and monitoring is certainly required when taking these drugs. The period of use should also be reviewed regularly,” adds Dr Tee. 


    Appetite suppressants 

  •        How they work 

    Suppress the appetite to limit food intake, therefore restricting calorie intake. 

  •        Side-effects 

    Some may cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, insomnia, dry mouth or constipation. 

  •        What the experts say 

    “The suppression should not be to such an extent that it interferes with intake of essential nutrients, causing deficiency. Such overly restrictive intake may result in body weight control but at the expense of your nutrient requirements. Hence, professional guidance and monitoring is again essential,” says Dr Tee. 


    Diuretics & laxatives 

  • How they work 

    Induce water loss by promoting frequent urination or bowel movement. 

  • Side-effects 

    Dehydration, mineral imbalance. 

  • What the experts say 

    “Diuretics, like slimming teas and laxatives are among the most dangerous weight-loss methods. People who take diuretics are losing water, which is very dangerous as it could lead to dehydration,” warns Dr Winnie. Water loss is very dramatic, leading to weight loss of one to two kilogrammes, but fat is not being burnt. 


    High-protein, low-carb diet 

  • How they work 

    You can eat as much protein foods (like poultry, red meat, fish, shellfish and eggs) as you like, but carbohydrate foods are severely restricted. Some high-protein diets allow you to eat liberal amounts of fat, while others advocate lean portions of meat and low fat intake. 

  •        Side-effects 

    Bad breath, constipation, diarrhoea in some people, hair loss, headaches, leg cramps.  

  •        What the experts say 

    “In the short-term, yes, it works. But it’s not sustainable; in the long run, you will regain the weight. Be careful if you’re diabetic, especially type 1, and your renal function is not good,” says Dr Winnie. 

    Says Dr Tee: “This controversial diet programme has not gained recognition by mainstream nutritionists or any health authority in the world. This is mainly because of the fear that it leads to lack of dietary fibre, and certain vitamins and minerals which are present in greater abundance in complex carbohydrate foods, fruits and vegetables.  

    “Another caution is the possibility of greater intake of fat, especially saturated fat from animal foods, through such diets. Intake of cholesterol can be expected to increase, with increased consumption of meat products.” 


    Surgery (eg vertical gastric banding, gastric bypass) 

  •        How they work 

    Reduce stomach capacity or interfere with absorption of nutrients. 

  •        Side-effects 

    Complications include nutrient deficiency, gallstones, surgical infection and post-operative mood changes. 

  •        What the experts say 

    “Surgery is usually for cases of morbid obesity that are caused by other underlying complications. It is recommended when all else has failed. (If not), it is not worth the risk of surgery,” says Dr Winnie. 


    The verdict  

    Do not be obsessed with achieving ideal body weight to the extent of starving yourself or losing out on essential nutrients. Instead, aim to be healthy and fit by eating normally, following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health Malaysia, and being more active. Find a friend to motivate you, or better yet, exercise with you. 

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