newsletter sign up

Developed by the British Dietetic Association.


options for support finding the right approach for you

(Page 7 of 8)
Find the right approach
Your doctor's surgery 
Commercial Slimming Organisations
Meal replacements
Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs)
Other approaches
Medical approachesBe Weightwise and webwise

Medical approaches

Drug therapy

There is one'anti-obesity' licensed (approved) drug available: Xenical (orlistat). It has a role to play in the management of obesity, but it does not replace making lifestyle changes. Xenical can help some people with serious weight problems achieve beneficial amounts of weight.

Xenical works in the stomach and intestine to prevent the absorption of about 30% (one third) of the fat eaten at a meal. This means it passes through the digestive system undigested. It has to be taken with a low fat diet otherwise you will suffer unpleasant bowel effects.

Xenical can be prescribed by a GP for certain groups of people. Xenical is also available over the counter as Alli.  It is important to check with your pharmacist that this is suitable for you before taking it. Alli only works safely and effectively if taken as part of a healthy calorie-controlled, low fat eating plan to help weight loss and to avoid any side effects of Alli.


  • These drugs don't suit everyone, and there are strict criteria for who they can be prescribed for.
  • When prescribed Xenical, you are provided with an excellent support programme that guide towards appropriate changes to diet and activity. Programmes are developed by health professionals and cover all aspects of lifestyle change.
  • If you are interested to find out more about these anti-obesity drugs, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • A variety of weight loss drugs are available over the internet and at private clinics. At best, they contain no active ingredients that will reduce appetite or accelerate weight loss. At worst, they could contain chemicals banned due to safety concerns in the UK. Check with your GP regarding any medication you may consider taking that he/she has not prescribed for you.


Surgery to reduce stomach size (bariatric surgery) is only considered when all other approaches have tried and failed, and obesity is life-threatening. The stomach is made smaller by using a 'gastric band', so that only small amounts of food can be eaten at any one time. It's usually carried out as keyhole surgery, and the band can be removed if need be. The effect is to produce a feeling of fullness with lower food intake.

    • Other types of bariatric surgery include: sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass. These can be keyhole or open procedures and are not reversible.  Both produce a feeling of fullness with lower food intake but gastric bypass also limits calorie uptake from the intestine.



  • This approach is only suitable for people who meet strict medical criteria and requires long term specialist aftercare and follow up.
  • Specialist dietary advice and support is needed after the op to help with adjusting lifestyle and to ensure your diet is nutritionally balanced.

There is a consumer support group for people interested in weight loss surgery: More information can also be found online at Patient UK.

<previous  next>

page 7 of 8