It was Hippocrates who first said “Let thy food be thy medicine.” And while it may have taken a few thousand years for this to really catch on, doctors in New York City have finally started applying this concept to their patients.
NYC docs involved in the Wholesome Wave program have now started writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables for their patients battling obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high-cholesterol, and other weight-related diseases. Instead of drugs for weight loss, doctors provide these patients with a “prescription” of sorts to eat more vegetables and fruits.
It is this program’s goal to empower under-served and low-income communities with access to healthy foods in efforts to manage obesity and its resulting health conditions. In recent coverage from the New York Times, success stories are popping up throughout the 1200 different low-income families enrolled in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or FVRx, in four major hospitals throughout New York City.
Most astonishing is that after just four months in the program, 40% of children successfully lowered their body-mass index (BMI) once they ate their prescribed fruits and veggies. (more…)
Herbal supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry, but do consumers really know what they’e ingesting? A new study shows that supplement pills may actually contain a high amount of filler including wheat and rice, the wrong herb entirely, and sometimes ingredients that are downright dangerous.
Canadian researchers selected popular medical herbs and then purchased 44 bottles of varying brands from 12 local stores. The products were tested by using DNA bar-coding. Their findings concluded that many bottles were mislabeled or diluted. A staggering one-third of the plants advertised on the bottle had been replaced with another plant entirely. Customers were not getting what they paid for, and they were often receiving products with ingredients that could have annoying and potentially lethal side effects.
We reached out to our resident registered dietitian, Mary Hartley, for her thoughts on the study. “If one-third of the supplements showed outright substitution, then this is a huge, huge supplement industry problem,” she said. “Not only are the supplements ineffective, but they may contain harmful ingredients.”
by Dani Stone
If you’re watching your diet and sticking to an exercise routine but the pounds don’t seem to be coming off or worse, you’ve gained a few, the problem may not be what’s in your refrigerator, it may be in your medicine cabinet. Common prescription medications used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, seizures and even depression could be adding those unwanted pounds.
When prescription medications cause weight gain, sometimes as much as 10 pounds in one month, it happens for a variety of different reasons, depending on what the drug is being used for and how the body reacts to it. Corticosteroids like prednisone, used by many patients for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, allow the body to retain salt and fluid, increasing fat stores. Mood disorder drugs including antipsychotics (Clozaril, Zyprexa, Seroquel) and antidepressants (Paxil, Zoloft, Elavil) have a hormonal component. When patients feel better, their appetite returns.
When patients correlate the weight gain to their medications, they often quit taking them and that can be dangerous. Whether the drug is an oral contraceptive, seizure medication, high blood pressure medication, steroid, or any other long term drug, they cannot be stopped abruptly without having serious side effects. Madelyn H. Fernstrom, PhD, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises, “Even if a medication causes weight gain, an extra 10 pounds may be worth the trade-off of what that medication is doing for your overall health.”
With the obesity epidemic on a collision course with no stop in sight, the FDA and drug developers are feeling the pressure to approve and develop weight loss drugs at a fast clip. Qnexa could be approved by the FDA by April but some people are wondering how this could happen when it was initially rejected by the FDA advisory committee a couple years ago.
Qnexa, which is a combination drug of phentermine and topiramate, was initially brought to the FDA advisory committee’s attention in 2010. The committee basically told the drug maker Vivus to go back to the drawing board and give them more concrete data about the phentermine portion of Qnexa would not lead to cardiac events like heart attacks even with its side effect of increased blood pressure. The committee also wanted a plan in place to prevent women of childbearing age from being exposed to topiramate’s birth defect potential if they became pregnant while on Qnexa.
At a time when obesity rates are at an all-time high and continuing to grow, doctors are bumping up their recommendations for patients to increase their physical activity. The CDC reports that in 2010, one in three adults that saw a doctor or other health care professional was advised to increase their physical activity to improve their health. This is a vast increase to the recommendations in 2000 when less than one in four consultations resulted in a recommendation of more physical activity. This dramatic change over 10 years shows that members of the medical community are increasing their efforts to recommend lifestyle change to boost health benefits.
This development is important because patients typically listen to advice given by their doctors. According to a study done in 2008, overweight patients were nearly five times more likely to exercise if their doctors counseled them to do so. They were even more likely to keep active if their doctor followed up with them after the initial prescription.
With Lipitor becoming generic, Pfizer pharmaceuticals has decided to venture into the realm of weight loss medicine. Currently the only approved weight loss drugs that are available by prescription are Xenical and stimulants like phentermine, Adderall or Ritalin. Utilizing a different pathway, Pfizer hopes to control a patient’s appetite as opposed to stimulating the body’s functions to possibly control the market once more.
The new drug currently called OAP-189 is an appetite suppressant and mimics the body’s hormones that signal when someone feels full. Like adopotide, this currently is a drug injected into the subcutaneous fat in the skin. More research will need to be conducted to see if an oral option could still provide the same results. The most common side effect right now appears to be nausea and the researchers are hoping that by purifying the compound it will more closely mimic the body’s natural hormones that control hunger thereby minimizing side effects.
The prayers of many who have high cholesterol have been answered: Lipitor has finally gone generic. Atorvastatin may be here but Lipitor’s maker Pfizer is not going quietly into the night- they would like to keep their 100 million dollar weekly sales in tact. So here’s what you should know if you want to jump on the number one’s statin band wagon.
Lipitor is a cholesterol lowering drug called a statin that mainly works on the LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol. As far as potency, Lipitor is more potent than simvastatin (Zocor) but not as potent as Crestor for reducing LDL after the first dose is taken. Here’s some downsides to statin, including an increase in liver enzymes. Elevated liver enzymes could affect liver function and cause myopathy or muscle pain. If this occurs stop taking the statin and call your doctor. The most dangerous and rare side effect is called rhabodomyolysis. This causes the breakdown of muscle and can eventually lead to kidney failure, but overall, statins are a great drug to lower LDL and help prevent heart disease and heart attacks.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and with it comes the announcement of a new combination drug to help battle the growing disease. It’s called Juvisync, and it’s the first cholesterol and diabetes combination drug of its kind. Being that high cholesterol and diabetes tend to go hand in hand for those with Type 2 diabetes, this drug promises to eliminate two birds with one stone.
Type 2 diabetics often have many other conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is important that these areas are as closely managed as their blood sugar to prevent complications like stroke and heart attack.
Healthy goals for diabetic patients for blood pressure should be less than 130/80 and LDL cholesterol levels, a.k.a. “bad cholesterol,” is less than 100 mg/dL and sometimes even less than 70 mg/dL. Juvisync’s aim is to help patients reach their goal and cut down on their daily pill count.
People are now looking behind the pharmacy counter for help losing weight. A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) discussed doctors prescribing medications that are not typically used for weight loss and not currently FDA approved for it. Let’s take a look at some of the controversial weight loss prescriptions and how effective, and dangerous, they can really be.
Medications for Diabetes: Byetta and Metformin
Most diabetes medications cause weight loss because blood sugar levels are more properly managed. Byetta works by slowing the rate at which food empties from the stomach. Many of my diabetic patients tell me they feel more full and do not eat as frequently when on the medication. The biggest side effect with Byetta is nausea which is why the dose starts lower and increases from once to twice daily. This is a self administered injection into the fat of the abdomen, upper arm or thigh. If you are willing to give yourself a possibly painful injection to lose weight, you probably could stick to a healthy and natural nutrition and exercise plan just as easily.