Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Warning about Diet Pills and Weight Loss Supplements

  On October 8th 2010 the FDA pulled the popular diet pill Meridia (Sibutramine) from the market because studies found that it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The FDA also recommends that if you are taking it now, you should stop. (always check with your doctor first before abruptly stopping a prescribed medication)

     Losing weight by using weight loss pills and supplements is a very enticing prospect for many people who have struggled with their weight for a long time. These pills and supplements often promise extreme and easy weight loss in a short amount of time, without much effort. However, their claims are dubious and the risks associated with them are high.

     Prescription Diet Pills/Over the counter FDA approved diet pills
     Diet pills such as Fen-Phen (which was taken off the market in 1997 and Alli (an over the counter FDA approved drug which is half the strength of it's prescription counterpart Orlistat) "work" in different ways. Some pills, like Alli, block fat absorption from  food into the body. Others such as Meridia and Fen-Phen, attempt to increase energy expenditure and/or suppress appetite, by acting like an amphetamine and working to increase norepinephrine and serotonin activity in the brain.
    These pills have side effects ranging from:
     Yucky...... increases in bathroom urgency (oh you know what I mean), oily stools (eeewwww!) flatulence and    gastrointestinal distress:
    Dangerous: increase heart rate, liver problems, increase risk of stroke, increases in pulmonary hypertension and heart disease.

  Ironically, if you read the fine print, most of these drugs say that you will get the most benefit from them if you add diet and exercise to your program.
 So this begs the question,

  If you have to diet and exercise ,while you take these products, to see results, why would you risk the dangerous side effects when any weight loss you are experiencing is not from the drug?

         A dietary supplement is defined as any pill, capsule, or tablet that has in it a herbal or chemical ingredient, included specifically for the purpose of increasing your metabolism or decreasing your appetite. Some commonly found ingredients in supplements are caffeine, vitamin B12, bioperine (black pepper extract), capsaisin (a component of hot peppers).
     Dietary supplements are different than Prescription or FDA approved weight loss pills. They are classified as "nutritional supplements" and therefore the FDA treats them differently than drug products. They leave the responsibility of making sure these supplements are safe to the companies who stand to gain a lot of money from their sales. A perfect watchdog right???
    The FDA will  become involved with them when there is a question about their safety or if they work,  only AFTER the product has been put on the shelves. It often takes years between the time a complaint is waged against a supplement or pill and when the FDA actually issues a warning or removes it from the stores. Meanwhile, people are still using them and they understandably think that if a supplement is being sold it must be safe.
     People are also lulled into a false sense of safety because when they read the labels of many of these supplements, the ingredients such as caffeine,vitamin B12 and bitter orange, seem harmless. However, the extreme amount and combination of these ingredients can cause, jitteriness, a dangerous rise in blood pressure and rise in heart rate, among other possible deadly side effects.
   If you read fitness and strength training magazines you undoubtedly have seen many ads with extremely fit models espousing the virtues of dietary supplements. However, if you read anything about these models, you will know that they look the way they do because they workout very hard and eat clean most of the time.

A note about Hoodia
  Hoodia is marketed as an all natural weight loss supplement that decreases your appetite. Hoodia is a succulent plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. People started selling it as a weight loss supplement because it is said to be used by hunters in Africa to feel less hungry during a long hunting trips. However, there is insufficient evidence to prove that it works and has not been proven safe. The FDA has issued warnings that Hoodia might no be effective and that some products claiming to have Hoodia in them actually do not contain it at all. 

Remember, just because a product says it's ALL NATURAL does not mean it is safe or effective. Always be cautious and do your own research before taking any weight loss medication or supplement.

  So with that being said, here are some everyday spices and foods that MAY help increase your metabolism. You can think about ways to incorporate them into your clean meals.  But remember, if these foods really do increase your metabolism, they are only a compliment to your exercise and clean eating.

Green Tea: Green tea is probably the most promising of all of these nutritional metabolic boosters. Green tea is a thermogenic food that doubles as a disease fighter because of its cancer fighting antioxidants called catechins. Studies have found that you need to drink 3-cups a day to increase your metabolism.

Jalepeno and all hot peppers: Jalepeno peppers have a thermogenic effect, increasing your metabolism through the heat they produce. (The effect is probably very small. )

Spices: Cinnamon, Cumin, chili, ginger,cayenne pepper hot mustard and garlic....will all raise your metabolism a tiny bit. Plus they also have other health benefits and make food taste delicious!! So make a clean stir fry or sprinkle plain cinnamon on apple slices or your morning oatmeal to give yourself a small metabolic boost.

Caffeine: Caffeine has been shown to help you work out better. However do not drink more than two cups a day and beware that caffeine can make you jittery, anxious and increase your heart rate.

STRENGTH TRAINING!!!!!  Although this isn't something you can eat, building muscle is the BEST WAY to increase your metabolism! Muscle is active in your body unlike fat, and will burn calories all day even when you are being a couch potato!! The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism will be, and it will help you reshape your body! Strength train 3 days a week with at least 24hrs in between sessions for maximum results.

In my opinion, the potential dangers of using a diet pill or supplement are not worth the risk. I believe that consistently eating clean and exercising will get you the results you want without the side effects and cost a lot less!!!  Have you had any experiences with diet pills or supplements? Let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Yea for weight training! I know a woman 55+ who started lifting weights (steroid free) a couple years ago. What strength! What a body! It makes such a difference