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Diet Drugs in on-line news

Diet drugs always get attention. Too many people have tried everything to lose weight. I want to analyze the information about Alli and Hoodia.

Alli is being promoted by Smith, Kline Glaxo. The write-up is very honest, saying that their pill is not magic and only in addition to exercise and a healthy diet. They say subjects who took Alli lost 2-3 pounds more than the 5 pounds lost by control subjects during the same time. If this is a healthy 5 lbs. a month, will another 2 pounds really make you want to use the pill? It works by causing 25% of the fat in your diet not to be absorbed. However the side effect of loose stools can be troublesome.

The write-up about Alli says nothing about possible non-absorption of desirable oil-soluble vitamins A, D, and E or if it interferes with omega 3 fish oils or flax oil. I’m reminded of a product touted in the 1950s that would keep your body from absorbing sodium so you could keep your blood pressure normal. The product was a synthetic resin. Capsules would be too big, so they advised mixing it with your mashed potatoes. It was unacceptable by the public so marketing ceased. People said why not just use less salt?  Similarly, because of the potentially embarrassing side effects, wouldn’t you rather just use 25% less fat?

Hoodia has a different mode of action.  It is derived from a cactus-like plant, used by natives of the Kalahari Desert to keep from feeling hungry or thirsty when crossing the desert.  Pfizer has spent millions trying to discover the active ingredient. However, Hoodia Plus advertises their version of hoodia on the web. They say it is safe and has no side effects because it is natural. This is misleading. Many natural plant substances do have side effects, depending on the person. Take coffee or tea that has been used by millions, of whom some suffer side effects. Many drugs derived from plants or the parts of plants used by herbalists can have side effects.

Another problem I have is their marketing on-line. Even when you click “Contact Us”, you don’t get an address and phone number you would expect from a reputable company, but only a chance to send them an e-mail after you fill out a form with your name, address and phone number.

Hoodia may well take your appetite away. Remember South American Indians chewed coca leaves for centuries for this effect. Many people world wide have suppressed their appetites by using tobacco. We now know that coca and tobacco products do have side effects even though both are natural.

The reason many diets don’t work and people on them always feel hungry might be because they are eating too few calories and often no fats. If you eat a healthy amount of fat, this will suppress your appetite for hours. I eat a couple slabs of a good quality whole milk cheddar cheese and don’t feel hungry for the next 5 or 6 hours. It’s the low-fat idea that has led to both intractable obesity and more type two diabetes as people think that eating complex carbohydrates is better for you than fats.  I explain more in my posting on Body Fat and Exercise.

Body Fat and Exercise

Many people think that runners are healthy because of low body fat.  This is NOT true for some female runners. Without enough body fat they can’t make enough estrogen. Some no longer have menstrual periods. Others get bones as thin as those of an old crone because of low estrogen. Some don’t eat enough protein which is necessary to form the web-like matrix of bone cells on which calcium salts are deposited. Whereas moderate exercise helps calcium to be deposited in bone, excessive exercise has the opposite effect.

Other women complain that no matter how much they exercise, they can’t lose weight. I say they can’t use body fat because they aren’t eating enough fat.  In order to lose body fat, you need enough of the intrcellular enzymes that burn fat.  Otherwise you go into “starvation mode” where every calorie not used for immediate energy is turned into body fat.  In one study with mice that got no dietary fat, the enzymes that produce body fat from carbohydrates increased 26-fold(2600%). Conversely, if you eat enough fat, you increase fat-burning enzymes and then start to lose body fat. Moreover, dietary fat keeps you from feeling hungry because it slows down the emptying time of the stomach. You feel full longer also because fat causes the production of a satiety hormone in the brain.  A high carbohydrate makes you hungry every 2 hours as your insulin goes up and down.

Men runners can let their body fat decrease but this gives them less reserves for long distance running. Too many think that carbohydrates are the only source of energy for muscle movement, so try to keep the glycogen (animal starch) stores in liver and muscle high, then use sugars during a race. Don’t they know that fat is a better source of energy for muscle movement? The heart, which beats continually prefers fat. In my book I calculate that a man with 10% body fat has over 15 pounds of available fat that could produce 61,000 calories of energy, while glycogen stores can furnish between 1400 and 1800 calories. Instead of carbo-loading, racers should have a moderately high fat meal the night before a strenuous run and then replace lost body fat after the race along with enough protein to repair micro-tears in muscles.

One new friend demonstrates the value of body fat for long distance running. He is short and stocky, with a thin layer of fat evenly distributed over his muscular body.  He set a record on a 50 mile race, passing tall thin runners who constantly needed more sugar.  He had enough fat reserves that kept him going to win the race.

A typical runners’ diet of 80% carbohydrate and only 10 percent each of protein and fat is not healthy for the long term. Both fat and protein are necessary for the immune system.  Other authors say that runners have more colds than people who exercise more moderately since they don’t get the extra protein and fat they need to make constituents of the immune system.

No one should be afraid of eating fat. Thirty percent of your calories as healthy fat will keep you healthy along with moderate exercise.

A Reason World-Wide blood Pressure readings are up

A recent article by Lauren Neergaard on Washington AP states that blood pressure readings are higher than normal, in Europe and other places more than the US.  38% of adults in England, Sweden and Italy have high blood pressure as do 45% in Spain and 55% in Germany, 1/3 in India and 1/4 in China.  In the U.S. high blood pressure is most common in blacks.

Doctors treat this symptom with drugs to lower blood pressure.  A cheap method, possible in low income countries, is by using a diuretic to decrease the amount of fluids in the body.  Restricting salt can also prevent the body retaining water.  All these methods just reduce the symptom of blood pressure greater than 140/90.

Wouldn’t it be better to consider possible causes of hypertension (high blood pressure)? In the European countries mentioned as well as in the U.S. Black population, more people smoke cigarettes.  I remember on a trip to Spain in the 1970s seeing ten-year-old boys smoking.

Nicotine, in any tobacco product, causes the heart to beat faster.  At the same time it causes the arterioles (tiny arteries just before capillaries) to clamp down. More blood being pumped by a faster heart plus a restriction as to where it goes naturally causes higher pressure in the circulatory system. In young, healthy persons the bigger blood vessels are elastic enough to expand so blood pressure doesn’t get too high.

However, all blood vessels can get stiffer and less elastic after years of a diet containing trans-fats, from margarine or artificially hydrogenated cooking fat. A diet too high in sugar can also make stiffer blood vessel walls by the action called glycation where sugars combine with proteins. A high sugar diet already contributes to obesity and diabetes, two factors associated with high blood pressure.

Smoking and consuming too many sweets are addictions or habits not easily broken, but the end result would be better than being dependent on drugs to get blood pressure down.