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  HEALTH SENTINEL

Warning on Weight-Loss Products


by Dr. Philip S. Chua.

July 16, 2010

If you are taking, or planning to take, any products (pills, portion or lotion, food supplements, or herbals) to help you lose weight, here is a wake-up call for you. For at least the past three decades, we have been warning our readers about the dangers of weight control aids, especially those sold on the streets, in health food or herbal shops or organic food stores, marketed as “effective and safe.” In spite of the reported adverse side effects on various organs of the body, which have resulted in some deaths, these weight loss products continue to flood the market and people (ignorant and misinformed by the ads and infomercials) are duped into buying and using them. The fact that many of them are expensive may be a secondary consideration for some, but the real serious effects of these products are risks not worth taking. Besides, there is a healthier, safer, and more economical strategy available. And now, once again, and even in a more forceful assault on the manufacturers of weight loss products, the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) “has inspected some companies associated with the sale of these illegal products and is currently seeking product recalls”, and “additional enforcement steps, such as warning letters, initiating seizures, injunctions, or criminal charges, are also possible,” according to the agency report.

The FDA has expanded its warning list of weight-loss products from 28 to 69 in January 2009, from the original advisory issued by the agency December 22, 2008.These weight loss products, according to the FDA, can cause important cardiovascular side effects from these components: sibutramine, phenytoin, phenolphthalein, and abumetanide. Some ingredients of some weight-loss products may even be carcinogenic (cancer-causing agents).

The FDA press release also noted that “One product, known as Phyto Shape, even contained rimonabant, the cannabinoid-receptor blocker that has been linked to neurological and psychiatric side effects… in 2007, an FDA advisory committee unanimously said no to rimonabant, and Sanofi-Aventis, the maker of rimonabant, eventually halted all clinical research with the weight-loss drug.” It is unfortunate that the public appears to be at the mercy of the welldesigned but less than truthful commercials on these weight-loss products, especially the so-called food supplements and herbals, with their baseless claims about their efficacy and safety and obviously intentional omission of listing their adverse side effects, short term and long term. The ignorant and unsuspecting public swallows the advertisement hype and ends up spending hard-earned money for products that could cause health problems.

Misinformed people also think that these products replace the need for dieting and exercising. The safest (and lesser expensive) way to lose weight and maintain good health is to do daily exercises (aerobic exercises, dancing, tai-bo, normal pace or brisk walking, swimming, etc), and by cutting down calorie intake, to maintain the desired weight (monitoring the weight once a week, using it as a guide to dieting). Drinking a tall glass of water before eating also helps in reducing food intake. Avoiding carbohydrate foods (rice, bread, potatoes, cakes, candies, ice cream and other pastries and sweets) will greatly help in weight control. Those who have given up most of these foods, especially rice, maintained their desired weight sooner and more permanently.

It is common to hear some people say they have not been eating a lot and still gained weight. Medical data show that all (100%) of the starved prisoner in any war in the history of the world lost massive weight, regardless of gender, physical built, family history, genetics, etc. All lost weight, because of calorie restriction and hard labor (which is a form of physical exercise).

There is really no need for weightloss pills, teas and juices, for safe and effective weight control for 99% of people who are overweight. Calorie control and daily exercises will do the trick. The 1% exception who have morbid obesity, not responding to calorie control and exercises, are possible candidates for gastric bypass surgery. * * *

To be more effective and lasting, normal weight maintenance must start from childhood. The old tale that fat babies and children are healthier is not true. Childhood obesity leads to early onset of serious diseases. And children as early as in their teens should have their blood cholesterol level checked, even once, to have a baseline data. Because of exposure to the junk food culture of red meats, eggs, fries, and milk shakes, and other unhealthy items in fast food chains, young children in various countries around the world have been found to prematurely have high cholesterol level. High cholesterol level among these young people is also associated with high risk of developing heart attack and stroke early, even before age 45. Pediatric experts have now lowered the normal value of blood cholesterol to be at 170, down 30 points from the former standard of 200. One area, where most of us, parents, have miserably failed in is in teaching our children to eat fish, vegetables, and fruits daily, instead of a lot of carbo, red meat and eggs. This is the reason why today we have an epidemic (actually a pandemic) of obesity and hypercholesterolemia among children in well-developed countries and a severe increase in the global incidence of diabetes mellitus type 2, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.

Teaching our youngsters healthy lifestyle starting from the crib is the best way to instill good habits among them and ensure their good health and a better future. If you think about it, most of the diseases confronting mankind are elf induced and actually preventable, with knowledge, wisdom, discipline, and determination.
________________________________________________________________________

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, is Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana, also based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Philippine College of Surgeons. He is Chairman of Cardiac Surgery at the Cebu Doctors University Hospital in Cebu City, Philippines.

Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com



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