Slimming Pills: Today's Drugs Are More Likely To Cause Than Cure Obesity

A fortune, estimated at $40 billion a year, awaits any of the world’s Big Pharma companies that can produce a safe and effective slimming pill. This they’ve desperately tried to do over the past twenty-five years, when no fewer that 123 weight-loss drugs have been put through

costly clinical trials. Only one of these has been certified for use in Britain. That exception is Orlistat, which works by inhibiting the uptake of fat. This drug is sold in a watered down version known as Alli, which is freely available online or through over-the-counter sales. Unfortunately, it costs £2 a day and can produce unpleasant side effects, including wind and the occasional embarrassing leakage of fatty stools. Others may choose to dose themselves with patent slimming pills. If they do they’re taking a grave risk, because some of them contain up to six illicit agents, capable of causing substantial toxic side effect and even death. All these pills have one little recognized side effect, that they give people the impression that the responsibility of treating obesity is not theirs, but their doctors.

Today there are a multitude of legally prescribed drugs which contribute to the obesity plague because they slow us down and reduce our level of metabolism. Children are being diagnosed with diseases like ‘social anxiety disorder’ and ‘attention deficit hyperactive disorder’ (ADHD) and treated with drugs like Prozac and Ritalin. These slow them down and may contribute to weight gain. At the same time their parents are taking tranquillisers, antidepressants and sleeping pills which also curb their activity levels and so can make them fat. In December 2006 The New York Times published an article based on internal documents obtained from the drug company Eli Lilly. This revealed that the firm had deliberately played down the fact that one of the side-effects of Zyprexa, one of its most frequently prescribed anti-psych

otic drugs, was that it fostered obesity on a colossal scale. The data that the firm had tried to conceal showed that one-third of patients who’d taken the drug for a year gained at least 10 kilograms, and half of these a massive 30 kilograms or more. Commenting on this, and the widespread use of other psychotropic drugs which are now taken by one in six Americans, the New Scientist magazine said that these drugs ‘could potentially be causing a significant, and growing, portion of America’s obesity problem.’

Rather that taking drugs to calm us down, most of us would benefit by adopting a life style

which peps us up. Scientists in the Netherlands have recently demonstrated that drinking coffee helps us lose weight, by raising our metabolic rate and boosting the oxidation of fat deposits. The same metabolic stimulus can be obtained by dancing, taking a cold shower, going for a brisk walk, laughing, make love or take an exciting challenge – anything which gets the heart beating a little faster. Our lives today are too sedate for our own well-being. Even enjoying music can help to keep us slim. This was shown by researchers at McGill University, Montreal, who found that music has the power to activate our brain in exactly the same way as when we’re taking psychedelic drugs. In both cases, the pleasure is mediated by dopamine, a naturally occurring ‘reward’ chemical which activates our body, boosts our temperature and gets our heart beating faster. The more we enjoy the music, the greater the stimulus. So the problem of excessive weight gain is as much what we do as what we eat. We need to live more active, exciting lives. This was the view of the family doctor who, when asked for a slimming prescription gave his patient a bottle of pills with the instruction: ‘Don’t swallow them, just sprinkle them on the floor three times a day and pick them up.’

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