The death of a medical student who took a banned slimming pill, dinitrophenol, commonly called DNP, raises the point that most, if not all, slimming pills that are currently available, are a major hazard to health. In fact, to date, the US FDA has only approved two new weight-loss pills (in 2012) after the previous approval of Xenical in 1999. Such are the difficulties faced by pharmas in securing approval for a safe and efficient medicine to lose weight.
23 year old Sarah Houston, a medical student at Leeds University,England, died after taking DNP in an attempt to lose weight in September last year. DNP had already been linked to 62 deaths around the world in a study published last year in The Journal of Medical Toxicity.
DNP is illegal for human consumption but is still available commercially to make make dyes,other organic chemicals, wood preservatives and herbicides. It was originally used as a diet pill in the 1930s but the presence of severe side-effects such as an undue rise in body temperature (hyperthermia) which can be fatal has resulted in its ban since.
A shocking fact which emerged following this tragedy is that DNP is still being sold online as a diet pill. In Sarah’s case. she had bought them via the internet from a trader in Spain. My advice: scrutinise the ingredients of any nonprescription diet pill carefully and avoid disreputable sources.
Diets come and go, like fashion it seems..but the diet that grabbed the headlines last year was the Dukan Diet, said to be the reason the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, managed to shed those pounds to squeeze into her wedding dress for that royal do of the year.
It now transpires that the inventor of the diet, Dr Pierre Dukan,70, is to be hauled up by the French Ethics Council for breach of the medical ethics code. In a book out in January, the star nutritionist proposes bumping up A-level equivalent pupils’ marks if they manage to maintain an acceptable Body Mass Index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The French College of Physicians has lodged a complaint against Dr Dukan because his remarks could prove harmful for pupils already suffering from obesity or anorexia.
The good doctor’s intention is quite clear and should be lauded, what with the large proportion of obese children and the hazards it poses towards their health. he said: “There is nothing unhealthy about educating youngsters about nutrition.”
“My idea would change nothing for those who have no need to get thinner. But for those who do, it would only motivate them to lose weight.”
The Dukan Diet has been a rave favorite with celebrities worldwide – its followers include Jennifer Lopez and Victoria Beckham. But it has also drawn quite a bit of controversy. The British Dietetic Diet has branded it the ‘worst diet of 2011’, claiming that there was no scientific basis and that it was harmful to cut out food groups.
What the diet entails is nothing new essentially, it bears resemblance to the time-tested Atkins Diet which has been around for decades. It comprises of a complicated four-stage approach based on eating lots of protein-rich meat and fish and cutting out carbohydrates : the “attack“, “cruise“, “consolidation” and “stabilisation” phases.
During “attack”, which lasts five to 10 days, participants are meant to eat nothing but lean meat, fish, eggs and low-fat dairy products – plus a tablespoon and a half of oatbran a day.
In “cruise” they are allowed some vegetables every other day, but no spuds. Their oatbran allowance goes up half a tablespoon. This can go on for months, until a dieter’s “true weight” has been achieved.
Those strong-willed enough to achieve that aim can then start eating some bread and fruit once more, a period known as “consolidation”.
Finally, participants reach “stabilisation”, when they can eat whatever type of food they like – apart from on Thursdays.(don’t ask me why, but you can eat anything you like on the other days, provided its on the list of the first two phases).
Looking for slimming pills? Don’t look too far, because virtually all the known slimming pills introduced over the last few decades have all been banned or for restricted usage only. Whether its phentermine (Duromine, Adipex), ephedrine (Ephedra), rimonobant (Accomplia) or sibutramine (Reductil,Meridia) they’ve all fallen by the wayside due to their dangerous side-effects.
Duromine, one of the earliest slimming pills, is now indicated for short-term use only (I take it to mean less than 3 months) and can only be used in those who do not have a long list of medical conditions (see here). Since it is related to amphetamines (speed), it is very much a controlled substance and available only on doctors’ prescription.
Accomplia practically did not see the light of day, after it was banned within 2 years of use, after a significant percentage showed suicidal behaviour . I had written in an earlier posting here.
Latest to be banned in the US this month is sibutramine because of the high incidence of heart attacks and stroke. As I’ve said before, the Europeans seem to be more responsive and alert, having put this drug in cold storage since January this year.
However, the more worrying issue is that sibutramine has been found in several so-called herbal preparations. Examples include:
- a Chinese herbal medicine, called “LiDa Dai Dai Hua Jiao Nang”, available on the Internet.
- a Canadian product “The Slimming Coffee”.
- In Malaysia, “Slimway Herbs” has been banned after earlier obtaining official approval.
So what drugs can be used safely? Orlistat (sold as Xenical in prescription form and as Alli over the counter) is now the only prescription weight-loss drug approved for long-term use. The drawback of using this drug, as users will tell you, is that it “leaks” and stains trousers and clothing and wherever you sit down. The reason is that it works by preventing absorption of foods containing oil and fats, which then come out the other way (read “leaks out the other passage”!).
I guess the message is loud and clear – to lose weight, you have to fall back to good old diet and exercise!