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Orlistat is the generic version of Xenical. It helps you lose weight by reducing the amount of fat you take up through food.
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In the stomach and small intestine, you’ll find enzymes, a catalyst that causes a particular biochemical reaction to happen. One such enzyme is called lipase. One of its jobs is to take the fat found in food and help store it as energy. Orlistat works by preventing the lipase enzyme from fulfilling this job. This means certain fats don’t get stored, but are instead excreted when you go to the toilet.
Orlistat, Alli and Xenical are sometimes referred to as ‘fat binders’, but this isn’t a technically accurate way of describing how they work. Instead of binding to fat itself, the active ingredient orlistat attaches itself to the enzymes that are responsible for breaking fats down. This stops them from being absorbed by the digestive system.
Most studies say that Orlistat is a safe and effective weight loss treatment if it’s taken as part of a plan that includes dieting and regular exercise.
Compared to placebos, there’s evidence that Orlistat is very effective and that it’s well tolerated. In some studies, it has been shown to help reduce body weight by 10% within six months. While different people react to treatments in different ways, Orlistat’s effectiveness and low risk of side effects means you can have some peace of mind when you’re using it.
So if you take Orlistat as part of a weight loss plan that includes diet and exercise, you may find that you lose up to 10% of your weight over six months. But the fact is, everyone is different, so there are no guarantees that it will happen in this timeframe.
If you haven’t noticed any changes in weight after several months of using it, alongside making changes to your diet and getting exercise, drop us a message and we can speak to you about alternative treatments.
Efficacy and tolerability of orlistat in the treatment of obesity: a 6-month dose-ranging study. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, [online] 54(2), pp.125–132.
‘Evaluation of efficacy and safety of orlistat in obese patients.’ Indian J Endocrinol Metab.
Orlistat is taken three times a day with a meal. You can take it just before, during or up to an hour after you eat. Swallow each weight loss capsule whole with water.
If you skip a meal, skip the tablet you’d have taken alongside it. For Orlistat to work, your meal needs to contain some level of fat. If you eat something without any fat content, you can skip that particular pill.
If you miss a weight loss capsule and it’s less than an hour since you’ve eaten a meal that contains fat, you can take it and gain all its benefits. If it’s been more than an hour since your meal, just skip that tablet and carry on taking it as you normally would.
Do not take two tablets to make up for a missed one as this will likely cause issues with side effects and can be a significant risk to your health.
You need to have a BMI of 30 or above (or 28 or above and an underlying health condition) that could benefit from weight loss. It will also usually only be prescribed if you’ve made significant effort to lose weight in the past.
BMI is a relatively simple formula used to calculate a person’s weight. It divides your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. A healthy BMI for an adult is anywhere between 18.5 to 24.9.
It should be noted that body mass index is not a perfect measure of your weight. For example, its ranges can change slightly for people with particular ethnicities because they may be more at risk from having a lower BMI. Therefore, Orlistat can be prescribed ‘off-label’ for some people whose BMI is below 30 (or 28 with an underlying health condition).
You can’t take Orlistat if you suffer from certain conditions, like chronic malabsorption syndrome, cholestasis or if you’re breast-feeding. Orlistat needs to be taken alongside a weight loss plan that includes things like regular exercise and dieting. Our clinician can help you to come up with the right weight loss plan just for you.
How we source info.
When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.
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