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Latest Miracle Weight Loss Pill: Not So Miraculous Actually

September 17, 2009

pillsAnd once again, here come the headlines about a new obesity drug study with “promising” results. The drug in question — tesofensine — was originally created with the hope of easing symptoms for individuals with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. When patients in the studies lost weight, researchers decided to test the drug on the obese.

The latest clinical trial had good results — at least in terms of weight loss. In six months, participants who took the highest dosage lost an average of 28 lbs., making it about twice as effective as diet drugs currently on the market. That’s the end of the good news, though. Side effects included increased blood pressure, higher heart rate, nausea, dry mouth, bowel problems and trouble sleeping. In other words, while these people may have become healthier by losing weight, those benefits wre canceled out by unhealthful side effects.

Then there’s the whole issue of whether or not weight lost with tesofensine will be regained. As Dr. David L. Katz, director of Yale University School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, told the Washington Post:

“Losing weight, in the short term, though not easy, is not all that challenging. Any diet that restricts choice will tend to work, from low fat, to low carb, to cabbage soup or grapefruit, and a number of drugs can provide this effect as well, including, it seems, tesofensine.”

But the real test, Katz added, is sustainable weight control over the long term. There’s no way a six-month-long study can predict whether weight loss can be maintained for any length of time.

Even more troubling, there is no way to determine long-term side effects, since it takes decades to complete those types of studies. So while tesofensine may turn out to be helpful for a small number of people, it most likely won’t be a magic bullet for the rest of us. Actually, I think that’s good news. The sooner we come to grips with the fact that weight management involves lifestyle adjustments – not pharmaceuticals – the better off we’ll be.

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