Sunday, November 9, 2008

A "Fat Burning" Drug?

Experimental Drug Spurs Fat Burning

This is all becoming rather silly. That so many valuable research resources are being wasted on what is essentially a behavioral problem is a poor reflection on society and the state of biomedical research. The last fat burning drug promising miracles was fenfluramine. It was discontinued in 1997 because it was found to induce heart valve damage, this damage lasting years after use was ceased.

This drug targets SIRT1, a gene transcription regulator that is strongly associated with the beneficial effects of caloric restriction. A word of warning about the caloric restriction craze: recent studies have indicated that it will probably not prolong life in humans and it does carry some risks, including infertility, immunosuppression, hypoglycemia, and there is some suggestion it may damage the brain over the long term. Not surprising really, animals living in cages on CR is something entirely different from the real world experience. I suspect this drug will never reach the market.

To use drugs to address what is essentially a behavioral problem is both dumb and dangerous. Sure, it can be very difficult to lose weight. Many years ago I began to pile on the weight. It took time but I now have reduced my weight to a very good level. I could probably lose a few more kilos but I'm not obsessive about weight, in fact I think the Body Mass Index is silly and misleading. What many are loathe to say is that being a little overweight is probably better than being underweight. Some studies do support this.

If you are gaining weight don't run to the doctor for a magic bullet. In this age of ballooning health care costs and innumerable accounts of so called "scientifically tested" drugs proving to have worrying side effects prudence and common sense dictates that we should take charge of our health instead of seeking magic bullets from the biomedicine industry. You know what you have to do: change your lifestyle and diet. Don't try to lose weight quickly, don't diet, change your lifestyle and diet so the weight is gradually shed until you reach the weight you think is good for your body type. The BMI is a useful guide but don't take it as an absolute. There are no dietary or health secrets and anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something.

1 comment:

Legal Eagle said...

Yes, the concentration of research on "fat burning" drugs does seem extraordinary. It would be better to concentrate research on other health problems.