Losing weight is often considered a matter of beauty and vanity, and as a result, there is a multi-billion dollar industry based on a multitude of products that promise miraculous methods to lose weight quickly and easily. However, losing weight — particularly for those who are obese — isn’t easy. For some people experiencing overweight or obesity, rapid weight loss is a serious medical need that cannot be accomplished alone or through traditional weight loss methods.

According to estimates US consumers spend about $33 billion every year in products to lose weight. Their effectiveness, however, can be questionable when not combined with medical supervision and safe weight loss methods. Rapid weight loss is often necessary in cases of morbid obesity, but there are also risks associated with it as well.

Why the Need for Rapid Weight Loss?

Morbid obesity is associated with a series of diseases, or comorbidities, including coronary heart disease (CHD), high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood fats, metabolic syndrome, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS), reproductive problems, and gallstones. In order to reduce the risk of developing or aggravating one of these conditions and improving the patients’ quality of life, rapid weight loss may be medically advised.

However, this approach must be discussed and accompanied by a professional medical team and there are currently a series of medically supervised weight loss programs. Behavioral alterations combining a healthy diet and exercise are crucial for accomplishing weight loss, but there are also other methods, including pre-packaged meal replacement plans, pharmacotherapy and surgical weight loss.

Rather than seeking professional help, patients often look for other options that may even have the opposite results. Regarding resorting to any kind of product available in the markets that promise miraculous results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval to commercialize their products. The agency maintains a list of tainted weight-loss products and advises patients that some substances may even cause other diseases.

Risks Associated With Rapid Weight Loss

Rapid weight loss generates physical needs and alterations in the body, which can involve serious risks. Between 12 and 25% of patients who lose large amounts of weight develop gallstones, while dehydration and malnutrition can be consequences of diets that are not correctly accompanied with the proper ingestion of fluids and proteins.

Electrolyte imbalances can also be a side effect associated with rapid weight loss, and despite it being rare, it can also be deadly. In addition, other problems associated with rapid weight loss that are not so frequent but can occur include headaches, irritability, fatigue, dizziness, constipation, menstrual irregularities in women, hair loss and muscle loss.

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