When we heard about a new weight-loss drug that claims to help you lose 10 percent of your extra weight, and lower your blood pressure, we reached out to world-class physician, nutrition and exercise expert, Dr. Pamela Peeke, for her views on weight-loss drugs—and what she thinks about this new drug called Qnexa.
The bottom line? Dr. Peeke says steer clear of this purported weight-loss drug – and any others, for that matter.
When you think drugs, the answer is, absolutely none, zero, zip – there are no drugs, that work safely, stresses Dr. Peeke, author of Body for Life for Women, Fight Fat After Forty, and Fit to Live. “The best drug I use is a pair of sneakers. It’s cheaper anyway. Utilize your own chemistry – increase your endorphins, increase your serotonin, increase your dopamine.”
Dr. Peeke noted that Qnexa’s manufacturer, Vivus, already tried to get approval for its weight-loss drug from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but failed. The company is attempting approval again now, but concerns linger about the combination of drugs – phentermine and topiramate (Topamax) – that make up Qnexa. Topamax is known to ease epilepsy and migraines and has been linked to an increased risk for cleft lip/palate in babies born to women who took it.
“There are a number of side effects you can get — birth defects are one piece of it. There are a number of cognitive and psychiatric problems, depression is one of them and mood disorders are another, and memory issues are yet another,” Dr. Peeke said of Topamax.
Meanwhile, phentermine is an appetite suppressant and a member of the amphetamine family. Known side effects include sleeplessness, diarrhea, changes in sex drive, and irritability, among others.
“It’s really – in the past – been only approved for short-term use. You don’t take it any longer than twelve weeks or so … and clearly with the massive amount of weight that has to be dropped in the grand number of people, that’s a heck of a lot of stuff you have to take. Then what happens when you get off it?” asked Dr. Peeke. “The question is, do you need more and more of it over time? It’s kind of an unknown.”
In the published results of the Qnexa trial, three groups of people were studied: Those who received a placebo, those that took a low dosage of the drug, and those that took higher dosages. There was a 19 percent dropout rate for those receiving the top dose, 12 percent for those receiving the lower dose, and 9 percent for the placebo – due to what Vivus called “adverse events.”
“They just found that indeed you were able to achieve that double weight reduction over a period of twenty weeks or something, but that being said, there was a higher drop-off rate in the higher dose because of the cognitive and psychiatric side effects,” Dr. Peeke said. “The good news is, you’re dropping the weight, the bad news is, you’re turning into a basket case.”
Because the side effects of any weight-loss drug are often negative, Dr. Peeke said it will always be safer and healthier to lose weight the old-fashioned, yet more difficult way – exercise and appropriate eating.
“Whole foods, whole foods, whole foods,” she stresses. “Is it hard? Yeah, it’s hard. We have not made this easy. I would never assume it’s an easy feat.
“It’s hard for me, it’s hard for you, it’s hard for every Tom, Dick and Harry.”
But when even popular over-the-counter weight-loss drugs that have been approved by the FDA, such as Alli, are known to cause health problems – in that case, severe liver damage was found to be a side effect in some rare cases – it’s always better to be safe than sorry, according to Dr. Peeke.
Here are three key steps Dr. Peeke recommends to help you lose weight:
- Boost your physical activity: No surprise here – get off the couch and tie on your sneakers! “Physical activity is the first thing I would recommend,” she says. Even if you’re still eating the same unhealthy foods, the exercise will at least begin to kick-start your body into action.
- Change your diet slowly. This will help you stick with a healthier eating plan better than going cold turkey on foods that are adding to your bulge. “You want to take short-term steps to wean yourself off this stuff,” she said.
- Don’t even think about fad diets. For similar reasons as those above, fad diets will only deprive you of too many foods and make you fall off the diet wagon faster. In fact, fad diets are “the worst thing you can do because your body will absolutely rebel, as well it should,” she said.
“Reward comes fully” if you work toward your weight-loss goals slow and steady, Dr. Peeke concludes. “You’ve got to be reasonable.”
Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, is the Chief Medical Correspondent for Nutrition and Fitness, Discovery Health TV and Chief Lifestyle Expert, WebMD
For more from Dr. Peeke and our weight-loss and nutrition experts:
- Jack LaLanne Continues to Motivate Dr. Pamela Peeke
- Diet Mistakes to Avoid as We Head Into Swimsuit Season
- The Cardio Myth, by Fred DeVito
- Exercises That Promote Longevity, and Ones That Don’t!
- Is Cardio the Answer to Losing Weight?
- Are You Hiding a High Body-Fat Percentage Behind a Normal Weight? (VIDEO)
- Wellness Versus Fitness
- Easy Ways to Eat Healthy
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