Beware of Untested Weight Loss Pills
03-11-2003 12:19 AM
Beware of Untested Weight Loss Pills
<SPAN class=article-title>Beware of Untested Weight-Loss Pills</SPAN>
<SPAN class=small-black-headline>We've heard about the dangers of popping weight-loss pills. But there are safe ways to drop extra pounds using supplements -- yes, even ephedra -- and prescriptions</SPAN>
<SPAN class=small-black-headline>By John Casey WebMD Features</SPAN>
<SPAN class=small-black-headline>Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD</SPAN><SPAN class=small-black-headline>
<SPAN class=small-black-headline>Seventeen days of taking usnic acid to promote weight loss was all it took for Jennifer Rosenthal of Long Beach, Calif., to go from being a healthy, active 28-year-old to being in a coma on life support. An emergency liver transplant saved her life.
Rosenthal's story, though extreme, points to the problem of the many untested and unregulated products sold on the Internet and in some drug and health-food stores.
"This is a young woman who almost lost her life," said Rosenthal's transplant surgeon, Ronald W. Busuttil, MD, in an interview with <I>The New York Times.</I> "Although she's got her life back now, she has to be under lifelong medical care. Her life has been altered forever. The fact that you can get these things over the Internet is mind boggling."
Usnic acid is an antibacterial substance made from lichens. But online marketers sell it as a weight-loss drug and performance enhancer. Since it falls under the FDA category of a dietary supplement, its sale and use is entirely unregulated.
In that regard, usnic acid is not unlike ephedra, another weight-loss pill that is sold online and in many thousands of neighborhood health-food and drugstores. Ephedra has been implicated in the death last month of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, who succumbed to heat stroke on a Broward County, Fla., practice field after reportedly taking an ephedra-containing weight-loss supplement.
Does all this mean there are no useful, safe weight-loss drugs?
<B>Safe Weight-Loss Pills</B>
If you're really serious about taking weight-loss pills, there's a safer way to go about it. First, work with a medical professional to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs.
There's no reason to go trolling the Internet for weight-loss magic, says Steven Heymsfield, MD, deputy director of the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. There are safe drugs that can really make a big difference in getting to a healthy weight.
There are three drugs most commonly prescribed for weight loss.
Phentermine, an appetite suppressant, was approved for use in 1959 and is the most commonly prescribed prescription because it costs less than the other major drugs. Some users report it can make them feel jumpy.
Xenical inhibits lipase -- an enzyme that breaks down fat in the intestines. Xenical decreases the amount of fat your body absorbs from food by 30%, which results in lower calorie intake. But all that undigested fat can make sudden, unwelcome appearances in the form of diarrhea.
Meridia increases levels of brain chemicals that help reduce appetite. Appetite-suppressants work by increasing serotonin or catecholamine chemicals that alter mood and appetite through means that are not well understood. Since Meridia can raise blood pressure and heart rate, people with any kind of heart disease shouldn't take this drug.
These drugs are all moderately useful and approved for use over various periods of time, says Heymsfield. But increasingly we are seeing these used in combinations or cocktails to decrease side effects and maintain weight loss, which tends to slow over time. Phen-pro is a weight-loss cocktail that combines phentermine with Prozac or other antidepressants. The use of the antidepressant in these cocktails is not to treat depression. No one is quite sure exactly why these combinations appear to improve weight loss. Some doctors also will prescribe combinations of Xenical or Meridia with phentermine.
Along with the cocktails, other drugs are increasingly being used for weight loss, says Heymsfield. Some of these include:
- Topamax, an antiseizure medication approved for use in the treatment of epilepsy
- Wellbutrin, an antidepressant
Using prescription drugs that aren't officially approved by the FDA for weight loss is commonplace, but the doctor needs to be very, very careful, says Heymsfield. You don't want a truck driver or someone who operates heavy machinery taking an antiseizure medication because fatigue or euphoria can be a side effect.
And medical researchers are pressing very hard to develop new weight-loss pills. One of the most promising drugs in development is Axokine, says Heymsfield. It is in the final phase of testing, and it not only looks like it will be important for weight loss, but it may also help people with type 2 diabetes.
<B>What About Ephedra?</B>
There's no doubt that ephedra can be dangerous when misused, says Heymsfield. Consumers think it is some benign herbal preparation because they can get it at the health-food store, but it is a real drug with potentially dangerous side effects in a very small minority of the people who use it.
But even Heymsfield, who has been a vocal critic of ephedra, says it can be used safely -- under a doctor's supervision.
Ephedra's safety depends on the dosage, frequency of use, and medical condition of the user, says Ray Sahelian, MD, doctor in private practice in Marina Del Rey, Calif., who has written extensively on the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements. A young person with a healthy heart who takes ephedra in reasonable doses, eats a normal meal, drinks plenty of fluids, and is not involved in heavy physical activity in hot weather is not likely to have any serious side effects, he says.
However, a person with a weak heart or with high blood pressure who skips meals, is dehydrated, or works out in hot, humid weather will have an untoward reaction, perhaps even including a fatality.
There is no magic pill for weight loss, says Heymsfield. But an experienced doctor can develop a treatment plan that can result in much better overall health for the patient.
John Casey is a freelance writer in New York City.
Published March 7, 2003.
SOURCES: Ray Sahelian, MD, Marina Del Rey, Calif. Steven Heymsfield, MD, deputy director, New York Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, New York. News release, FDA.
I would like to hear what you guys who are really experienced with diets, diet pills, and things of this nature to comment on this. I would love to hear your feedback on this. I would not consider myself a diet guru by any stretch of the imagination. I just found this to be very thought provoking.</SPAN>
03-11-2003 12:36 AM
Prescription drugs can cause just as many problems as OTC supplements. Cytodynes big thing is touting that Xenadrine out performed Xenical in weight loss in a clinical study, and I'm sure this pissed a lot of people off in the pharm industry. This is why we are going to see more nonsense stories like this pop up more and more.
03-11-2003 12:57 AM
So the idea, proposed by a DOCTOR, is to go see a DOCTOR($$$) and then take prescription weight management drugs ($$$). Am I saying that's a bad idea, of course not, but I believe of course a doctor is going to tell you to see a medical professional and let them prescribe stuff. In my experience, many doctors are quite ignorant when it comes to supplementation. This leads into "untested" weight loss pills. To what extent are they NOT tested? Does hundreds or thousands of personal feedback reports not count as being a decent form of testing? Or is he speaking specifically about a new product that many people haven't used. I will assume the latter. The supplement industry and its lack of heavy regulations allows companies to put out, for the most part, highly effective products without the necessity for prescription and human testing. All of us should be advocates of the way this system works. We all use supplements and many other compounds legally because of this. Many supplement companies do not have the money or could even hope to get funded to publish a peer reviewed study through an IRB etc. This would mean that many supplements probably would have never been issued if this was a requirement of companies. The supplement industry works to the bodybuilders advantage in so many ways. Consider for a moment what it would be like if the FDA imposed much stronger laws.
On the flipside, because of the way the system works, companies often don't have a ton of feedback initially on a product for human use. Of course, any reputable company will do all of their research and to the best ability assure it is safe in humans. In addition, a beta test is often in order. What does this mean? Well, in order to enjoy the benefits of the supplement industry we must also consider that from time to time, a supplement may have an adverse reaction in people. I think many would agree that it is more times than not caused by peopole who abuse the product and/or their bodies. I can't remember the last time I saw an educated member of any of the forums come back and say they needed severe medical attention. I believe this is because we are respectful, mindful, and educated of the gift that we have been given, ie, the ability to test out new compounds and supplements to meet our goals. Of course, there are going to be your trailblazers - the brave individuals who go and try a new product in the name of science and in order to reach that ultimate goal. If you are not one of these people, no problem as there is no shame in this. If one feels more comfortable waiting for a bunch of people to try something out, hell that is his or her right, but lets not hate on an industry that brings us many good things. Lets hate on the people who are ignorant and abuse products. Lets force people to have a little more accountability in this country and understand what the hell they are ingesting. I don't think this is too much to ask. Afterall, they sought out a product to help reach their goals - why not take one more step in understanding what it does and its potential effects?
03-11-2003 01:11 AM
Thanks WYD. I agree with you on the docs making more money most do that. They have to make their money somewhere. Thanks for the feedback. I would like to know Bobo's opinion on it as well.
03-12-2003 02:52 AM
ok u said usnic acid is an antibacterial, i havnt heard that one yet. just curious if u could get me any more info on that aspect of UA
03-12-2003 03:01 AM
Usnic acid has many different properties that could be used for different applications. Through a number of articles, ive found that usnic acid and its derivatives have been ingested as part of the human diet for thousands of years and have been shown in studies to have a number of effects including immunostimulating, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer), and of course thermogenic. I'd have to look through to find the actual study...but what aspect about this interested you?
03-12-2003 03:08 AM
Well, heres one if your interested.... Just for fun, usnic acid has been used in deodorants as it soaks up sweat well and also in a teeth whitening product (its action takes place because of its strong antimicrobic against postive or negative gram bacteria. This property helps it prevent tooth decay and helps figh stretococcus mutans which are harmul and cause bacterial plaque. As you can see, it is quite versatile.
Usnic acid revisited, its activity on oral flora.
Ghione M, Parrello D, Grasso L.
Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Milan, Italy.
The antibacterial activity of usnic acid, the most widely distributed antibiotic among the numerous ones produced by many lichen species has been re-examined and particular attention has been devoted to the activity of optically active forms of usnic acid against Streptococcus mutans. The D(+) enantiomer was found to be more active than the L(+) form and was observed to exert a rather selective activity against S. mutans. Trials carried out in volunteers showed that mouth-rinse with D(+) usnic acid preparations exerted a selective and long lasting action against S. mutans, without substantially altering the equilibrium of normal oral bacterial flora. The adherence of S. mutans to smooth surfaces is not increased by the presence of subinhibiting concentrations of D(+) usnic acid. This is at variance with what has been observed with other antibiotics. These characteristics make D(+) usnic acid a suitable candidate for topical use in oral medicine.
03-12-2003 12:52 PM
thanks a lot. that is very interesting indeed. one thing that i found very interesting, which may or may not be a coincidence, is the fact my roomate had a cold recently and i never got it. i usually only get colds when i get a lack of sleep and this was the case and i never got his cold. and yes ive been on UA. this talk about UA's antibacterial activity just sparked my interest. this is also my own conclusion, but since UA can increase body temp this would also be useful in fighting infections and such since high body temp increases white blood cell metabolism and immune system activity in general.
03-12-2003 01:26 PM
Do you notice something about the perscription meds for weight loss, "appetite suppresent", "burns fat in the intestines". It's all aimed at people with no will power. I don't give a **** about appetite and burning food I"m not going to be eating in the first place cuz when I diet I don't cheat (ever).
I want something that will support my diet not something that will keep me from cheating or mop up the mess after I've cheated. Those products are useless to me.
Do not go gentle into that good night...Rage! Rage! against the dying of the light!!
03-12-2003 04:29 PM
haha good post dreamweaver, i totally agree. if u were eating right in the first place u wouldnt need to be burning fat in ur intestines. but i guess fat ppl want an excuse to be able to eat their big macs without worrying about getttin fatter.
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