Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

This is how sad the CAM industry has become

How low does the so-called “alternative" medicine” have to go before we finally put a stop to that nonsense. This is perhaps not even low enough. They are putting real drugs into the pills for them to work, but they still want to keep the “natural” label, which as you may know, is completely meaningless.

This act is, of course, completely illegal. Why is this bad? Drug interactions. People die from drug interactions every day. So what is happening?

“I used to think weight-loss pills were just fancy placebos,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, a general internist at the Cambridge Health Alliance public hospital system in the Boston area. Over the last few years, he said he had treated many patients who took tainted weight-loss pills and came in complaining of chest pains and heart palpitations.

After a spot check (because regulation of “natural” supplements is completely different than that of drugs, and they are, by law, not allowed to regulate them the same way)and what did they find?

Laboratory tests revealed the presence of sibutramine, rimonabant, phenytoin, and phenolphthalein.

The part that cracks me up is that sibutramine is a prescription drug to treat…wait for it…obesity!

The other “contaminants” found are also strongly regulated drugs from anti-seizure medication to laxatives. There are 69 products in which these drugs were found, go to the FDA website for a complete list.

Now to be fair, no where on the entire FDA site do I see a single mention of how much was detected. We have developed some pretty sensitive equipment, we can detect many substances down to parts per billion or even parts per trillion depending on the substance. If they found 1 PPB (0.00001%) of these chemicals in the pill, we really shouldn’t have to worry (unless homeopathy works!).

I really like how the FDA describes how to avoid these products:

  • Promises of an "easy" fix for problems like excess weight, hair loss, or impotency.
  • Claims such as "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "secret ingredient," and "ancient remedy."
  • Impressive-sounding terms, such as "hunger stimulation point" and "thermogenesis" for a weight loss product.
  • Claims that the product is safe because it is "natural."
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results.
  • Promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees.

I’ll do a post later on weight loss, but for the most part weight loss works in a very simple way. As an analogy consider a bucket with a hole in it, the water level will rise if the water entering the bucket is faster than the water leaking out of the hole. Water coming into the bucket represents your caloric intake, the water level represents your fatness, the water leaving the bucket represents your caloric expenditure. Unless you have some hormonal issues (no, you probably don’t), or retain extra water (no, you probably don’t), most weight loss works with this model. All weight loss programs provide mental mechanisms that deal with changing the rate of water coming into the bucket (eating), or water leaving the bucket (metabolism, usually through exercise) or both. Stop buying “miracle” pills, or hopping from one fad diet to another. Find a mental mechanism by which to control your caloric intake and find a way to exercise. Remember, it took you years to get as fat as you are, you probably don't have to change your lifestyle that much to change the equation enough for it to take a couple of years to lose that weight. Don’t want it to take years? Eat less, exercise more. Lots of programs can shed multiple tens of pounds in mere months, but those programs are harder to stay on for the long run. There is no short cut.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m a realist and do a lot of reading on various subjects constantly. None of anything I write should be considered medical advice. Go look up the data yourself. Find controlled studies that show effectivity for any of those over the counter weight loss supplement. You’ll be looking a long time. If you do find one, be critical.

File Under: