diet pill trend

Illustration: David Wyffels

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Pills that Made the Weight Melt Away

The Idea: Diet pills came on strong in the '70s and continued popping up in subsequent decades, both prescription and over-the-counter options, offering what seemed like an easy, quick fix for weight issues.

The Problem: Right idea, wrong implementation, particularly with pills that contained ingredients like fen-phen or ephedra, Aronne says. "We didn't know enough about the body's weight-regulation system back then," he says. "People were given the wrong medications and too much of them." The FDA withdrew fen-phen from the market in 1997 because of the risk of heart-valve damage, and ephedra was removed in 2004 over separate safety concerns.

The Lesson: Today's diet pills are much safer than their predecessors, Aronne says, because drug developers have learned from the mistakes of the past. But don't start taking a diet aid without talking to your doctor.