How Safe Are Diet Pills?

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By Dr. Victor Dumaguing

To Your Health

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


TO ANSWER the question, it is useful and prudent to lay down some basic facts. Homonculus is a term used to delineate parts of the human brain and to designate each discrete part of the brain its specific function. A good example is that the frontal lobe, which is just behind our forehead is given the function of storing old childhood memories, and also the establishment of a series of well-planned activities which are all geared towards the future- personal ambitions, professional and career plans as well as other endeavors and undertakings. Thta just underneath our ears are the temporal lobes, given the function, not only to interpret and give meanings to everything we hear, but also serve as repository of recent memories of events and experiences.

Now, when it comes to eating or the control of hunger, the hypothalamus has neighboring parts , one of which is the Hunger Center in which there are special cells called glucureceptors which are sensitive to low blood sugar levels. For most healthy people, if the blood sugar ( glucose) level is 60 mg%, these glucoreceptors in an intricate way of communication makes the person aware that he/she is hungry, therefore, all activity is geared towards obtaining food. On the other hand, just beside the s0-called Hunger Center is the Satiety Center which , if passed by blood with a sugar level which is still high, say more than 110 mg%, then signals and impulses are sent, telling the person he/she is still full, therefore will not crave for food.

This physical closeness and territorial contiguity explains many of the reasons why the first slimming or reducing pills were not well accepted by the consuming public because, even when a diet pill is supposed top affect only a specific part, say depress Hunger Center, the areas nearby are also affected, thus bringing many unwanted side effects. The first diet piulls were all hunger suppressants , thus many of its users complained opf fine hand tremors, palpitations, dry mouth, constipation, chest pains because of the excitation by the diet pill of areas of the brain immediately sorrounding the Hunger center.As a result, users also had insomnia and for some patients, a terrifying increase in blood presssure which could trigger a stroke ( brain attack) or myocardial infarction ( heart attack).

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Then came Orlistat. Roche Laboratories of Switzerland trumpeted its local effect, aggressively telling both patients and doctors that unlike the first diet pills, which were " centrally-acting ", Xenical ( Roche trade name for it is Orlistat) exerts its reducing or slimming effects by preventing the absorption of 1/3 of the total fat consumed by the person in that day. The mechanism of action is that Orlistat at 120 mg strength is supposed to inhibit the enzyme pancreatic lipase ( or steapsin - the strongest fat-digesting enzyme) with the net effect of significantly reducing the amount of fat absorbed into the blood stream and therefore decrease the amount of unwanted fat in the abdomen, buttocks, arms and thighs. Many patients swear by the efficacy ( effectiveness for you) of the drug when they see orange or yellow goblets of fat in their toilet bowls the morning after. The fear of connecting the use of Orlistat with the incidence of colonic cancer, has not been substantiated so that today, in the market, Orlistat has had so many brand names. Now, it depends on who is the patient you would believe as to whether the original Xenical is as good as the others.

At this juncture, the author would like to warn our dear readers and friends to be careful with diet pills that promise " instant significant weight loss". All health practitioners- doctors, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists- are unanimous in saying that the healthy weight loss is 1-2 lbs per week, so as to prevent skin sagging leaving you with that old, tired, haggard look. Pills , especially those without US FDA or BFAD approval may contain potent diuretics which readily reduce your weight because of profuse urination. More scary would be diet pillls laced with thyroid hormones- thyroxine- which would increase your metabolism but atthe expense of your heart and blood pressure.
Next Week. Skin Sense during Summer

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 17, 2014.

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