Quite understandably – and quite rightly, in fact – diet pills used to have a bad reputation. It’s easy to see why – the diet pills of the sixties, seventies and eighties were barbiturates – street name ‘speed’. That’s what they did – they sped you up, increasing energy to an often frenetic level while cutting your appetite. An overdose could be fatal, and even a mild overuse of these diet pills could keep you ‘going’ for days and days – hardly the effect anyone was going for! But yes, they did make people lose weight, sometimes quite a lot of weight. All too often, though, any benefit that patients got from their weight loss was more than counterbalanced by other health problems that the diet pills themselves brought about.
The new generation of diet pills is much different. Nowadays, people are more likely to take ‘natural’ diet pills that are make from herbal preparations, and these are safer, for the most part, but not nearly as effective as the diet pills of the past. Of course, there is (and probably always will be) a market for them, because people love the idea of a quick fix – a pill to make you lose weight!
One new diet pill is called “Acomplia” (generic name ‘rimonabant’). It works by blocking the brain’s hunger receptors, so as a result, you feel less hungry or don’t realize that you are hungry. Depending on your precise behavior that caused you to gain weight in the first place, this may or may not work for you. Some of us eat too much because we make poor food choices in response to hunger. Others, however, engage in emotional eating – eating when we’re not even hungry at all – for other emotional or psychological reasons. The diet pill may or may not do much for your individual diet program. Studies indicate, however, that this diet pill does help you lose weight to a certain extent. In a European study, the subjects who took Acomplia lost twenty pounds as opposed to only 8 in a control group who received a placebo or ‘dummy’ pill. This was a one-year study that included 1,500 people, all of whom had weight to lose.
The manufacturers of this pill expected that it would have a positive effect on weight loss. They – and the researchers – were surprised to find that it had another benefit as well. This diet pill proved effective in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol (triglycerides) by 7%, and even more significantly, it raised ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) by 27%. This means that this pill, independent of its weight loss benefits, it also an effective means of improving your cholesterol profile and lowering your risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Some of this change in cholesterol level may have been due to the fact that Acomplia does facilitate weight loss, and weight loss generally does improve one’s cholesterol profile. However, it does seem as though it would do so even if no substantial weight loss is sustained.
Interestingly, this pill is also effective for other addictive behaviors, such as smoking. It’s not known why – as far as we know, its physical effects are limited to the elimination of reduction of hunger. It seems as though there might be link between these two compulsive behaviors – overeating and smoking – though precisely what that link is is open to speculation at present.
Acomplia is not yet available to the pubic, but it will be by next year. Ask your doctor about it if you think it would be of benefit to you, and do some internet research. So far, it seems very promising, and the side effects are virtually non-existent. Time will tell, however, whether any concerns regarding this product come up – it’s still in the clinical trial stages.
The decision to rely entirely on a pill for weight loss is usually a misguided one. Essentially, you have to do the work – you have to change your eating, and start exercising – and there’s no real substitute for that. That having been said, however, it does seem as though this pill is an effective tool you can use to help you on your way. Ask your doctor about Acomplia, particularly if your cholesterol profile could use a bit of improvement!
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