Appetite Suppressant: Everything You Should Know About It In 2024

Heather Freudenthal
Victor Nguyen, PharmD
An appetite suppressant may be prescribed for an individual whose body mass index is above 30 and who needs help losing weight in 2024.
appetite suppressant
Appetite suppressants may help with weight loss. Photo: Nhung Nguyen

An appetite suppressant is a type of medication, food, or supplement that blocks feelings of hunger. The intended purpose is usually weight loss. Appetite suppressants, sometimes referred to as diet pills, work within various pathways in the brain and nervous system[1] to disrupt hunger and lower appetite.. 

Appetite suppressants are typically prescribed and overseen by a doctor, however, some do not necessarily require a prescription. Nevertheless, anyone considering taking an appetite suppressant should get the approval of their doctor. 

This article will explain how appetite suppressants work and who may be best suited to use them.

What Should People Know About Appetite Suppressants?

  • Appetite suppressant medications can curb hunger with the intended purpose of weight loss.
  • Appetite suppressants work by blocking hormone signaling that initiates hunger, and in turn, extends feelings of satiety.
  • Appetite suppressants may be prescribed for overweight or obese individuals who need help controlling their appetite.
  • Appetite suppressants must be prescribed by a healthcare provider and taken under their supervision.
  • Some plant foods, such as yerba mate, fennel, and coffee may work as natural appetite suppressants.

What Is An Appetite Suppressant?

appetite suppressant
Appetite suppressants can help you lose weight. Photo: RVillalon/Shutterstock

An appetite suppressant is a medication, food, or supplement used to suppress appetite. The combination of phentermine and topiramate[2] is approved for weight loss. Though a doctor can prescribe this as a prescription appetite suppressant, there are many natural alternatives[3] including coffee,[4] fennel,[5] yerba mate,[6] and 5-HTP[7] supplements. Talk with a doctor if you’re trying alternatives for weight loss.

It is estimated that more than 2 in 5 adults are obese.[8] Being obese is defined as having a body mass index or BMI over 30.[9] Because there is such a prevalence of obesity, appetite suppressants and weight loss medications are often in high demand. 

Obesity is a risk factor for diseases[10] including cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, gout, and kidney disease. Weight loss is important to lower these risk factors and lead a healthy life. However, when lifestyle interventions are not enough, a doctor may recommend an appetite suppressant for weight loss.

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How Do Appetite Suppressants Work?

Appetite suppressants work mostly in the brain and nervous system, interfering with certain hormone activity. 

Two hormones in particular, ghrelin and leptin,[11] are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness, respectively. 

When an individual is overweight or obese, they may have leptin resistance.[12] This means the body is no longer as responsive to leptin,[13] the satiety or fullness hormone. As a result, these individuals may experience more intense and frequent hunger.

Hormones and other chemicals throughout the brain and nervous system[14] are involved in signaling feelings of hunger and fullness.

For example, hunger and fullness signals are passed through a series of complex communication pathways that run through the brainstem, hypothalamic, and cortico-limbic systems. These can come from various places within the body and are regulated by other systems such as the endocrine system and autonomic nervous system.

Appetite suppressants interrupt the usual flow of communication, telling the brain that you’re full, even when you may not have eaten a lot. This can lead to less caloric intake and encourage weight loss. This is why an appetite suppressant may also be referred to as a weight loss pill.

However, it’s important to understand that although appetite suppressants are designed to curb hunger, results may vary. Some studies have found conflicting evidence[15] on the efficacy of some appetite suppressants. Appetite suppression and weight loss are not a guarantee. 

Who Should Use Appetite Suppressants?

appetite suppressant
Appetite suppressants can help those who overeat. Photo: Kleber Cordeiro/Shutterstock

Medications may be suitable for obese individuals who are looking for help controlling their hunger and losing weight. Not all obese individuals need appetite suppressant to lose weight. Appetite suppressants should not take the place of exercise and a healthy diet.

If you’re thinking about using appetite suppression, discuss it with your doctor. No one should use an appetite suppressant supplement or weight loss medication on their own without the oversight of a medical professional. 

Appetite suppressants should not be used during pregnancy.[16] Hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can increase appetite,[17] but this is temporary. Additionally, it is unsafe for pregnant women to use most appetite suppressants. 

It may be unsafe to use for anyone with an eating disorder,[18] especially anorexia nervosa, to take appetite suppressants. These individuals may be depleted of essential nutrients, and taking appetite suppressants could lead to severe malnourishment and even starvation.[19]

Appetite Suppressant Health Benefits

The main health use and benefit of taking an appetite suppressant is weight loss.[20] Weight loss can also reduce the risk for weight-related illnesses[21] such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. 

Using a natural appetite suppressant, such as fennel,[22] may provide additional benefits from the plant’s properties. For example, fennel contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals which can support a healthy diet. 

Appetite Suppressant Side Effects

Because appetite suppressants typically interfere with brain and hormone activity, there are varying possible side effects[23] one might experience when taking them. Side effects also depend on the type of suppressant used. Examples of side effects for phentermine and topiramate combination include:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Heartburn.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Hair loss.
  • Headache.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of side effects.

Even a relatively safe appetite suppressant, such as caffeinated coffee,[24] can bring on unpleasant side effects such as dehydration, headache, anxiety, insomnia, and fast heart rate.

Additionally, using appetite suppressants may exacerbate some eating disorders[18] and restrictive eating behaviors. 

It’s important to track your use of appetite suppressants and inform your doctor to ensure you are getting the intended health benefits without experiencing potentially severe health consequences. 

Other Ways To Support Weight Loss

Healthy Lifestyle

While appetite suppressants can help you lose weight, they should not take the place of healthy lifestyle habits. Good habits for weight loss include managing stress, reducing alcohol, walking more, and eating a whole-food-based diet.


Exercising on its own may be beneficial in curbing appetite. Some studies suggest that regular exercise can help increase satiety[25] after meals. Additionally, exercise requires blood to flow to muscles, rather than to the digestive system, which can temporarily ward off hunger.

Eat And Drink Appetite Suppressing Foods

It can be helpful to focus specifically on appetite-suppressing foods, such as eggs, oatmeal, nuts, and fatty fish. You can also sip appetite-suppressing teas throughout the day. Options include fenugreek, black tea, green tea, and yerba mate.  

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Be Consistent And Holistic 

Satiating foods and lifestyle adjustments can help you lose fat including belly fat. However, it’s important to stay consistent with healthy habits. It’s also important not to rely on only one lifestyle modification. Getting good sleep, hydrating, and doing cardio exercises are equally as important as eating a nutritious diet and reducing stress. 

The Takeaways

With a high prevalence of obesity among adults, weight control has become a public health concern. Though diet and exercise may be enough for some individuals to lose enough weight, for others, they may need help controlling their appetite. For those individuals, a doctor may recommend an appetite suppressant to help minimize hunger, which can limit caloric intake.

Appetite suppressants work by blocking or interfering with hormone signaling that tells the body when you’re hungry or full. However, there is conflicting evidence about the efficacy of certain appetite suppressants. Natural appetite suppression can be obtained through certain foods like coffee, fennel, and yerba mate. Always consult a doctor before taking any medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most powerful appetite suppressant?

This is subjective. Some individuals may feel that a prescription appetite suppressant is more powerful than a natural supplement. However, how we experience hunger and fullness is unique, so everyone will respond differently to different types of appetite suppressants.

Is there an appetite suppressant that actually works?

Possibly. There are medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, individual results may vary. There is no guarantee that appetite will be suppressed or that this will lead to weight loss. This will vary from person to person.

What is a natural appetite suppressant that actually works?

Caffeinated coffee, fennel, and yerba mate are a few natural appetite suppressants that have been studied with varying results. Many marketed appetite suppressant supplements have some of these ingredients. However, individual responses to them may vary.

How can I suppress my appetite?

Taking prescription appetite suppressants is one way to suppress appetite. You can also try drinking coffee, eating fennel, or taking a natural appetite suppression supplement. 

Is it OK to take an appetite suppressant?

Possibly. Natural appetite suppressants can be part of a normal diet. However, drastic dietary changes, supplements, and medications should not be used unless your doctor advises you to take an appetite suppressant to reduce hunger and lower your body weight.

Why do appetite suppressants make me hungry?

Theoretically, they should not. Appetite suppressants should make you feel fuller, not hungrier. If you are experiencing the opposite effect, talk with your doctor.

What can I drink to make me feel less hungry?

Some teas such as black tea, green tea, fenugreek, and yerba mate have been shown to help reduce appetite. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated can also temporarily curb hunger and assist in weight loss.

Is it OK for pregnant women to take appetite suppressants?

No. Most are not safe for pregnant women to take. Increased hunger and food intake are normal during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor if you’re pregnant and have concerns about your appetite or weight.


  1. Parmar, R.M. and Can, A.S. (2022). Physiology, Appetite And Weight Regulation. [online] Available at:,coexisting%20diabetes%20mellitus.
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