Americans love to stuff their mouths especially around November and December during the holidays. Lately it has been with a lot of fast food. The national girth has proven in recent years that we are a nation of fat people. Those of us that actually care about our appearance and our general health often times want a quick fix. Heaven forbid we actually shut our pie-holes to the offerings of McDonalds and Burger King. Oh no, we need some painlessly easy means of fixing things. The weight-loss mills (diet clinics), big pharma and the nutritional supplement industry provide us with the means. Yes, just one more thing to cram into our over stuffed mouths. Diet pills have been around for years, but there are a few new agents on the market and Americans are cashing in on them.
Meridia is one of only two FDA approved long-term medications for weight loss. It is a sister drug to Prozac and Zoloft and alters the feel-good brain chemical serotonin in our brains. This can be a rather useful start to a weight loss program if used in conjunction with proper diet and exercise. However, some side effects include a rise in blood pressure. Not a good idea for the obese hypertensive.
Xenical came out a few years ago. It is the other FDA approved drug for weight loss. Was the FDA on crack? Does the drug company that manufactures Xenical have a very evil sense of humor? This from day one was on my poop list (no pun intended). Besides commanding a price tag of over $100 per month it is dangerous if you ask me. Xenical (OTC Alli the brand name) inhibits the absorption of fat in the digestive tract. As a consequence, it blocks the absorption of the very good fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) as well as some rather important Omega-Fatty Acids. If that ain’t enough, it can cause severe bloating and diarrhea. OK, you are at a dinner party and sample the duck pate and bang you have created a very embarrassing moment and likely have lost some friends.
There have been a few new drugs released and approved by the FDA lately They are Belviq, Contrave and Qsymia. Some are combination drugs of already generic pharmaceuticals, but with hefty price tags. Some drug turns off the eating pleasure sensors in the brain lowering the urge to overeat. Preliminary studies show side effects from dizziness to diarrhea. There is even some reports that one drug may be useful in smoke cessation. Jury is still out on this one until more studies are published.
Then there are those late night infomercials that boast “too good to be true” weight loss promises. Most are untested, most are absolutely false in the claims they make and they hide under the skirt of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, so the government can’t touch them. Shame on them. Oh come on guys, do some real research to prove these supplements effective. If they are you will make four-fold in profits on what you spend on R&D. They are worth mentioning here because you are bound to come across them at the supermarket checkout line next to issues of tabloids the Star and National Enquirer. There are quite a number out there, but a popular supplement is Zantrex-3. Alleged to boost metabolism with caffeine and guarana. Same effect as a double expresso from Starbucks and side effects are about the same: increased heart rate, jitters and some serious insomnia. Hoodia is all the rage these days. Like an old Arab saying goes “There are those that cannot find a miracle at their local church”. The exotic herb from far off lands may yield the answer. Hoodia originates from a cactus-like plant in South Africa and Namibia, and was used by natives for stamina. Rumors leaked out a few years ago that the cast members of “Desperate Housewives” used the stuff and sales have gone nuts. Same happened a few years later with Garcinia cambogia. Once again no large peer-reviewed articles that show if this really works to reduce weight. Apparently all the hoopla over a small single study.
So, in conclusion, Americans need to put less in their mouths including diet pills and muster up enough will power to get off their fat tail-ends, make a trip to the gym and not stop at the Krispy Kreme on the way home. There are useful and effective treatments (hormonal and herbal) that are safe. It is truly all about lifestyle modifications, married with common sense nutritional principles and guidance by Functional Medicine minded providers that will yield lasting weight management.
Dr. JP Saleeby, is an integrative Functional Medicine physician with a focus on nutrition, nutraceuticals and bioidentical hormone therapy. He works with other providers in NC and SC to help revolutionize the delivery of healthcare outside of the conventional ways. For more visit www.CarolinaHolisticMedicine.com