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Medically reviewed by
Constance Tambakis Odom, MD graduated in 1987 with her Doctorate of Medicine from the New York Medical College, and was an Anesthesiologist Resident from 1988 to 1991 at the Brookdale Medical Center PGY II (CA-I)-PGY IV (CA-III). She is Board Certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology since 1998 and American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 2002. Constance Odom, MD is affiliated with the American Medical Association, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American Society of Anesthesiology, Georgia Society of Anesthesiology, Hellenic Medical Society of New York, North Carolina Society of Anesthesiology, and Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia.
At any given time in America, around 17% of adults are on a special diet. The majority of these diets are linked to specific health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or a general need to lose weight. As obesity has become an epidemic in the country, there is a greater focus on weight loss aids and methods now than ever before. One rising trend in the weight loss community is the use of prescription medications to help jumpstart weight loss. Although there are few weight loss medications available that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one of the most popular is known as Contrave. While Contrave can be a valuable tool in assisting with weight loss, there are several warnings associated with the medication. One of the most common concerns comes down to the foods that should be avoided while taking it.
For starters, it is crucial to understand exactly what Contrave is. While often referred to as Contrave, this is actually the brand name of a combination medication that contains a mix of Bupropion and Naltrexone. Bupropion is found in similar medications like Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin is a popular antidepressant that is also used as a smoking cessation medication and for the treatment of the for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is attributed to weight loss, although it does come with certain warnings. The other portion of the medication is Naltrexone; an opioid antagonist. It is used to treat a dependency on opioids as well as alcohol.
Blending these two medications together creates the FDA-approved weight loss medication called Contreave. It is intended to be taken by adults who struggle with obesity. Currently, it is only available by securing a prescription from a doctor for those with high Body Mass Index (BMI) numbers who also suffer from a controlled weight-related condition like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. While there are certain foods that are to be avoided because of these conditions, those who take Contrave will also need to make additional adjustments to their diet in order to be approved to take the medication.
Like all medications, Contrave has the potential to cause side effects ranging in intensity from mild to severe. Mild symptoms are common and are frequently experienced by patients who have just started taking the medication or those who have recently altered their dosage. Those who take it are likely to experience the following side effects:
These side effects are mild and will typically fade on their own within a few days as the body adjusts. If side effects are persistent or significantly bothersome, be sure to mention them to your doctor. In rare circumstances, Contrave has the potential to cause severe or life-threatening side effects. If you experience any of the following side effects while taking the medication, seek medical help immediately:
Fast or slow heartbeat
Uncontrollable movements or tremors
Ringing in the ears
Although Contrave is intended for use by adults who are obese, it is not suitable for use by everyone. People with certain health conditions like uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension), seizure disorders, bulimia, anorexia, or chronic opioid use. While Contrave is a prescription medication, it is crucial to inform the prescribing doctor of any other medications that you may be taking or other health conditions that you may have. This will help the doctor to ensure that none of your medications will have severe interactions with the active ingredients found in Contrave.
Additionally, Contrave lists a boxed warning regarding an increased risk of suicidal ideations and behaviors. Those who have a history of depressive disorders, mental health concerns, or suicide attempts should avoid taking this medication. Likewise, all patients who take Contrave should have family members and friends that are able to monitor their mood for certain warning signs while taking the medication. Some of these signs include increased agitation, anxiety, usual behaviors, or general irritability. If a caregiver or trusted individual notices these signs, they should mention them to a health care provider.
Although Contrave can be taken with food, some foods are not able to be mixed with weight loss medication. Some of the foods that should be avoided while on Contrave include:
Other high-fat food items
While many of the foods that should be avoided with Contrave are commonly avoided during weight loss diets, it is essential to avoid eating these foods while taking this medication. This has little to do with the individual’s weight loss capabilities. Instead, consuming high-fat foods causes the levels of the medication within the body to rise. If the medication levels become too high, it drastically increases the individual’s risk of suffering a seizure. For those that are unsure of which foods are high in fat, it is important to seek guidance from a nutritionist or health care provider for clarification as this can lead to severe complications. If you are taking Contrave and consume a high-fat meal, reach out to your medical care provider for advice.
It is important to note that there is no specific diet to follow while taking Contrave. Those who are on the medication; however, should follow the dietary guidelines recommended by their healthcare provider. This will look different depending on pre-existing health conditions. For example, those who have type 2 diabetes will want to continue to avoid diets that contain foods like white bread, rice, sugar-sweetened drinks or treats, dried fruits, or maple syrup. Likewise, those with high blood pressure will continue to avoid processed meats, table salt, canned foods, and vegetable oil or margarine. For best results, these diets, along with avoiding high-fat foods, should be combined with regular exercise.
Contrave is approved by the FDA because of its effectiveness and ability to help obese adults with pre-existing, weight-related issues lose weight. According to studies conducted, patients can expect to lose anywhere from 5-10% of their body weight within 12 weeks of taking the medication. Contrave is not equally effective in all individuals and those who have not experienced this level of weight loss within 12 weeks should discontinue the medication. It is unlikely that Contrave would begin to work in these individuals after this point and alternative treatments are recommended.
Although Contrave is most effective during these first 12 weeks, the foods that should be avoided are for safety rather than results. While eating high-fat foods will not drastically alter the weight loss results of Contrave, it does put the patient at risk of overdosing on the active ingredients found in the medication. For maximum results, patients should also limit their intake of alcohol while taking Contrave.
In order to be prescribed Contrave, patients must meet the requirements outlined by their medical care provider. Additionally, they must be able to avoid high-fat diets to ensure that the levels of medication remain accurate within their bodies and have their existing condition well-controlled. Those with uncontrolled diabetes or hypertension should first focus on regulating their sugar levels or blood pressure before adding Contrave into their health care plan.
If you have concerns about your diet, other medications, or conditions that may affect your ability to take Contrave for weight loss, be sure to express your concerns to your health care provider.
Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.