A new diet drug is on the market, and people seem to have strong feelings about it. Crabby, who is ordinarily opinionated about everything, feels a bit left out. She's all rarin' to climb up on her soap box and spout off--but she's not quite sure what to spout. She's hoping you folks will help her figure out what to think about Alli, so she can locate her self-righteousness again and pretend to be a Crab Who Knows Everything.
Alli is a weaker, non-prescription version of the drug Orlistat. It works by interfering with fat absorption, blocking about 25% of the fat you eat.
Users are supposed to diet in conjunction with using the drug, and the manufacturers say it will typically result in a 50% greater weight loss than one would get from dieting alone.
However, Alli can cause disconcerting side effects if you eat too much fat while taking it: "loose or more frequent stools that may be hard to control, or gas with an oily discharge."
An LA Times article says Alli is flying off the shelves in Los Angeles. By contrast, no winged diet pills were observed further north in the Oakland/Berkeley area, where Crabby stopped by her local pharmacy. The guy behind the counter didn't even know what Alli was. But one would assume that if it's an over-the-counter diet drug with a large marketing campaign behind it, people will be sooner or later be buying it with enthusiasm. Especially if it works.
So here's what Crabby doesn't like, so far, about Alli:
Crabby wonders if it's a such a good idea to take something for the long term that interferes with the way your body naturally works. She also wonders if Alli allows you to get and process enough "good" fats--she's hoping someone smarter than she is has some more information about this. The limit per meal for any kind of fat is about 15 grams.
And the L.A. Times article featured a bunch of superficial-sounding women who were completely ignorant about how it worked and who were going to use it anyway. (Crabby hopes they'll be stocking up on Depends along with their pills). Are they typical? Who knows. But they're certainly out there.
There's also an interesting recent study that concluded: "consumers who contemplate taking a prescription or over-the-counter drug" for obesity "become more likely to engage in bad habits like junk food and a sedentary lifestyle."
And finally, there was something kind of yucky about the way the Alli pamphlet tried to soft-pedal the downsides of their medicine. They don't like the term "side effects;" they prefer you call them "treatment effects." And the disgusting oil that you're excreting instead of digesting? Don't be alarmed. "It's not harmful. In fact you may recognize it as something that looks like the oil on top of pizza"!
Yeah, but the "oil on top of pizza" isn't usually coming straight out of your ass.
On the other hand, there are some things to admire about the whole Alli concept and advertising campaign.
For one, their marketing approach is way different than most diet products. Their pamphlet starts right off with: "Your commitment, your hard work, powered by Alli."
Not many weight loss products mention "hard work." Most imply magic.
They offer online help in diet planning. They even have an "are you ready quiz," which asks users to swear, solemnly, like earnest jurors under oath, that they are:
"Willing to do the hard work to lose weight gradually,"
"Committed to following a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet," and
"Committed to making the time to be more physically active."
(They also have to swear they understand about the totally disgusting side effects they'll be dealing with if they eat too much fat).
So Crabby sees both pros and cons. She knows some people are desperate for a little help. Is this something that might be useful?
She's hoping her Smart Readers have some thoughts to share.