nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

New Weight-Loss Drugs Undergoing Approval: A Contrarian View

There's a pill for everything.  But like most drugs that try to alleviate the hard work of weight loss, will these fail, too?

And should we be trying to fight obesity this way?

Three new drugs are up for review by the FDA.  There's a fair amount of media attention to how they will fare.  Previously approved drugs have had mixed reviews at best:  they either work only for some people, and for a short time, or they have significant side effects.  According to the Assoc Press (July 12), the new batch will be more of the same:
"None of the three medicines represents a breakthrough in research. Drugmakers have made little headway in understanding and treating the causes of overeating. Two of the drugs submitted for approval simply combine existing drugs - an anticonvulsant and an amphetamine - but have worrying side effects. The third, a new medication, is safer but less effective."
Does anybody remember fen-phen?  The drug that caused heart valve damage?  Other drugs have increased the risk of heart attack, or caused liver damage.

But the drug companies and the public keep pushing for the magic bullet.

I'm sure there is no pharmacologic cure for obesity.  And I suspect the people who are most anxious to take weight-loss pills are more often the fashion mavens, not the grossly obese poor.

The FDA guidelines for a weight loss drug require that the agent reduce total body weight by a minimum of 5 percent in a year's time.  That's a pretty low bar:  we're talking 10 pounds in a 200 pounder over that year--placebos could do that with a little attention to what you eat.  And the FDA standards say nothing about sustained weight loss, which is the biggest problem with every weight-loss strategy on the planet:  not just drugs, but diets of all kinds.

So, back to my original question.  Should we be trying to find a drug for weight loss?  I say no.  The only permanent weight loss occurs with a lifetime habit of moderate, balanced dietary restriction and regular, sustained exercise.

We should forget the drugs.  The old saying is:  fewer calories in, more calories out.   All the Scarsdale, grapefruit, Subway, vegan, cupping, yoga, meditation...and drugs...only work when the following formula is met: 

more output than input....and keeping it that way.

Doc D
PS:  And even if you don't quite make it to your ideal weight?  Congratulate yourself; you're in the top 5% of the class.

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