A closer look at diet pills

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By Dr. Victor Dumaguing

To Your Health

Friday, April 4, 2014


SUMMER is now here. The solar rays are bearing down on us especially late morning and early afternoon hours. Plus the fact that graduation rites follow one another from grade school to secondary level to college. What's a better plae for that blow-out if not for a picnic in the beach or in a nearby river- i hope rivers still exists!

Summer means less clothes and more skin baring, that is if you have the something to be proud of to show, like a firm 6-packs or a toned arms and legs, which obviously can happen only if the person has ideal weight or something close to it.

Which brings us to the core topic of the column. In our brain, specifically the hypothalamus are discrete areas considered by both neurologists and endocrinologists as Hunger Center, which directs a person's behaviour towards the search and eventual intake of food; and Satiety Center- or you may call it Satisfaction Center, which thru some inter-related mechanisms, give the person the feeling or sensation of " still full" thus, his desire for food is not compelling.

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A review of the literature on pharmacology reveal that the first diet pills or the so-called " reducing medicines" were of the hunger depressants or hunger suppressants. Thus medicines related to the catecholamines and amphetamines were the ones given to overweight and obese patients. This includes Phentermines, Dexfenfluramine and Fenfluramine. There was also a combination called Phen-Fen. Sad to say, the complications greatly outweighed the supposed benefits of the medicines. Side effects like insomnia, fine hand tremors, constipation are some of the alleged complaints of users. A few more suffered allegedly palpitation, angina pectoris or chest pains. As a result, the Phen-Fen combi, Dexfenfluramine and related meds were discontinued.

At the turn of the century, another promising drug was introduced to the public. Sibutramine was initially hailed a a boon to weight watchers and slimmers because it has a mechanism of action very different from the first diet pills. instead of hunger suppressant, Sibutramine was promoted as " satiety enhancer"; patients were encouraged to have a full meal at breakfast then take the Sibutramine so that by lunch, although there is the hunger sensation, the patient will not eat as much, and same thing as dinner comes, the patient would have that " still full" feeling, therefore greatly decreasing his/her food intake.

It also took some years of persons- mostly young ones- enjoying the good effects of the medicine until one by one, studies on the drug showed potentially dangerous side effects of the medicine particularly among middle age adults including fast heart rate, palpitation, chest pain and worse, elevated blood pressure. Sibutramine then was struck out from list of medicines in the pharmacopeia.

A large European pharmaceutical firm then was fine-tuning the introduction of their diet pill- with a supposedly big bonus- They have done extensive stuidies on this drug which does not only help the person lose weight but also stop smoking. Again, the drug did not reach public introduction because of the appearance of " disturbing side effects."

The author is not sue whether the drug has been thrown to the garvage bin or still undergoig some modiications to lessen its side effects.
Next Week: How Safe are Diet Pills?

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 05, 2014.

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