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Herbal Supplements May Contain Fillers and Toxic Ingredients – New Study Finds

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.

Herbal Supplements

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.”


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Prescription Medication May Equal Unwanted Pounds

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.”

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Qnexa’s Side Effect Profile has Critics Concerned

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.


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Doctors Increasingly Prescribing Exercise to Patients

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.


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Pfizer Developing Weight Loss Drug that Suppresses Appetite

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.


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