March 19, 2008

Magic Weight Loss Pill, take two

[By Merry]

Get it? Take two, as in this is the second time we've blogged about weight loss pills or as in "take two pills" ... oh all right. Just checking.

We've already mentioned the possibility of an all-natural, working-with-the-body magical weight loss pill. It's not something that you can buy over the counter yet, but should be available soon.

But scientists have developed another weight loss pill that could be commercially available within a decade. Unlike the pill that works with your body's intestinal flora, this one is essentially a form of gastric bypass surgery without the knives. It shrinks your stomach chemically.

Normally, your stomach expands when you eat, to the point where you feel "full." Gastric bypass surgery involves physically restricting the amount that your stomach can expand. Gastric bypass surgery has had dramatically successful results with many patients. To quote the authors of a study on gastric bypass surgery, "...nonsurgical methods are notoriously ineffective at achieving major, long-term weight reduction."

But gastric bypass surgery is not without some nasty potential side-effects. Hell, Dr. J. would tell you that any surgery has some risks. (Bear in mind that I'm biased on this topic: my favorite uncle passed away due to a nosocomial infection.) So any method that would have the success rate of gastric bypass without the side effects would have me cheering.

All the same, I'm still resistant to the idea of any weight loss approach that works on the body rather than working with the body's own already established systems. One of the effects of stomach stapling is that "high fiber foods and foods with a more dense, natural consistency can become very difficult to eat relative to highly refined foods." I tend to distrust any man-made "solution" that goes against what has been working for the human body for countless generations.

We've all been raised on the notion that if you have a passing ailment, take a pill and it will go away. I am afraid that putting the gastric bypass solution into pill form will somehow put it on the same level as some passing problem. This is serious stuff and could have seriously long-term issues with it. It's a solution, but please, please, consider the more boring long-term solutions first.

Should I change my name to Crabby? Am I being too suspicious/old-fashioned/stuck-in-a-rut? I grant you, gastric bypass might be the way to go -- it's certainly worked for a lot of people that I've known. But shouldn't it be a last resort?


  1. Well, if you change your name to Crabby things might get a little complicated around here... but then I'll look awfully darn productive!

    I agree completely. Anything that messes with your body in a big way should be a last resort. Sometimes that may be necessary, but the increasing number of surgeries does seem worrisome. And if you start getting similar body-altering results with a pill, people could see it as less "invasive," and take the whole thing way too lightly.

  2. Taking a pill to alter the function of your stomach? When it works just fine?
    What the flying frak?
    There are SI many digestive problems - why would you risk something like that, by taking something that interferes with the regular function of your GI tract? I have enough issues with mine - I wouldn't dream of mucking with it. My concern would be how do you know it won't muck up something somewhere else? How can you stop people from taking too much of it (more is better). The surgery is extreme, but at least they don't let the patient do it themselves...This seems like something you'd take in extreme situations where your body had problems and you couldn't diget food properly...not just because you wanted to lose weight.
    Oh man oh man...for love of pete...I get all riled up at things like this.

  3. Keep in mind evolution is not an end point. Generations previous had much less of a problem keeping fit and health experts are still divided on why obesity is becoming so prevalent.

    The fact that the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" can exist and be 50% loved and 50% rejected as preposterous says something about scientists lack of understanding concerning the human body.

    When someone has shot up to morbidly obese, the biggest concern is getting them back down to a healthy weight, and if there's a way to do that w/out invasive surgery or relying on diet/exercise plans which mostly fail (whether sooner or later), then all the better.

  4. Miracle pills are very miraculous...until 2 years later when they are recalled for causing liver damage. I few all pills with a suspicious eye.

  5. This pill chemically shrinks your stomach?? I find that extremely creepy.

  6. Technically the pill stops your stomach from expanding. Normally your stomach is a hollow area that can expand when you eat. If it expands too much you feel "full" and stop eating.

    Thanks Crabby for posting this and for finding the graphic! (Crabby /always/ finds cool graphics. I'm jealous!)

  7. I am with all of you...could not imagine taking or doing anything that would alter my innards. I know some folks do see bypass surgery as their only hope, but it does change things FOREVER. As far as miracle diet pills, remember phen fen??


  8. "Dr J would tell you that any surgery has some risks."

    True that!

    I absolutely agree that weight loss surgery should be a last resort for anyone, especially children. The problem is, however, that many people are down to their last resort. For these individuals, surgical options can be helpful and quality-of-life saving. In these cases, reversible procedures like the lap-band, need to be considered as a first option, followed by the more permanent surgical alterations.

    Merry, I'm very sorry to hear about your uncle.

    Dr. J

  9. This is definitely in the scary area. One can see a huge potential for abuse. Especially with those "save the calories for the beer later" girls. Wouldn't this type of pill be right up their alley?
    Oh, and those health experts who are divided about why obesity is becoming more prevalent just need to take a good hard look at the lifestyle of previous generations and compare it to the current lifestyle. Duh.

  10. Children? They're performing this surgery on children???!!!?!

    No. I'm sorry. I know being fat in school can make life hell, but even so, no.

    Dr. J, I have to say my uncle, much as I loved him, was partially responsible too. If he hadn't smoked so heavily for decades, he wouldn't have has such severe emphysema, which complicated his recovery from a fairly trivial accident.

    I used to work at a company where several people had this bypass surgery. Most of them handled it well, though some didn't. But as a whole, the culture at that company was such that I was considered an exercise freak because I would walk to work. I lived less than a mile away.

    My supervisor, a dear sweet woman, said she'd "tried everything" and couldn't lose weight without the surgery. She also lived less than a mile away. Always took her car.

    I saw people at this company, including one man who was over 600 pounds (yes, seriously) who really needed medical intervention. But there were a lot of others who -- well, they took a shortcut.

  11. OMG! I can't imagine taking that kind of pill. I already live in that crazy circle of prescriptions to cure something caused by the cure for something else. I can't help but think of Thalidimide(sp?) when I hear of new miracle drugs.

  12. I don't know - there's a pill for everything just about now.

    On the other hand, there was a lot of criticism (and still is) when antidepressants became more available and more refined. After all, we should all be able to manage on our own, say the nay-sayers.

    Problem is, antidepressants FOR THE RIGHT PEOPLE save lives. I'm wondering if that might be the case here.

    Many morbidly obese people are not good candidates for surgery. If something like this could help them get down to a more healthy weight, then *maybe* it's not as bad an idea as it seems at first glance.

  13. That 600+ pound man that I'd worked with was not a good candidate for the surgery, and for him I could certainly see these pills as a hopefully life-saving solution.

  14. For the Right People, this is a solution.

  15. Dog forbid we should do anything natural when we can live better through chemistry.

  16. A pill that shrinks your tummy. Oh hell no don't mess with our innards! What else would it shrink? Scary, scary. These lab coats and their frankenstine experiments frighten me.

  17. You can shrink your stomach yourself - it's called Intermittent Fasting:) No pills necessary. Although I won't say it's terribly easy.

    I'm with you Merry - this kind of thing gives me the heebie jeebies.

  18. I am morbidly obese. I have never been classified as "normal weight." Ever.

    With this in mind, I have considered weight loss surgery. But, I've considered it long enough to see those who have had it done have managed to bypass the bypass and begin gaining unhealthy levels of weight.

    Besides, I am scared to death of going under the knife.

    But I'd like to know how you feel about Alli. Or what do you know about it? Do you know of anyone who has tried it?

    I enjoy your blog. Have for a long time.

  19. No. Just no. As a scientist who studies interactions between our bodies and infectious agents, I've come to the conclusion that most bodily functions should not be messed with.

    That being said, I'm sure some people could benefit from this type of drug. The question is, though, what will the long-term side effects be? That's not something I'd be willing to risk.

  20. I only know one person who's tried Alli. She's lost about 40 pounds, looks better and acts happier than she did before. I don't know how well she adapted to the nasty side effects.
    It seems to me that Alli, and most of these gastric surgeries, are all ways of physically enforcing good eating habits. For people who are morbidly obese, they can help. As Mattie points out, some people have had the surgeries and gone back to gaining weight again. Enforcing good behavior from without only works to a certain extent. If the person isn't willing to (or able to) change their behavior, they'll find a way around any obstruction.
    We truly are an amazing species. A bit too ornery for our own good sometimes.

  21. Wow, great discussion!

    I know at least one woman who had good results with surgery--but it requires a huge amount of diligence and a really restrictive diet to maintain her weight loss. Fortunately, she seems to be up for it.

    Mattie, thanks so much for commenting! I don't know too much about Alli, even though I did some sort of smart-assed post about it when it first came out. (As I recall, there was a lot of amusement over the "leakage" side effect, but I believe I heard that the problem gets better for folks over time).

    While I don't think it's any kind of miracle, my sense is that Alli has helped some folks who are doing all the right things about diet and exercise lose a bit faster, if they can tolerate the side effects. But
    if you've done any research you probably know more than I do.

    Good luck with your weight loss efforts. It's a really tough thing to tackle, but every little bit you accomplish will have a big impact on your health. I'm always impressed by the courage folks have to take those really hard steps to turn things around.

  22. Yes surgery should be a last resort!!

    There is already a FREE magic weight loss pill - well it's free, but costly in other ways: It's called PERSISTENCE.
    Persistence to keep trying, keep learning, keep starting over, taking 2 steps forward and one back, and learning through it all what works for you. Good luck.

  23. if it shrinks your stomach, is it a temporary thing? if not, is there a way to get it back to its normal size? o_O

  24. well if u have the money and are lazy, surgery just may be your best option. for the majority of us, some kind of pills would be more plausible.

  25. I have to agree with LadyG -- the magic pill is just DO it.

    I always complained I couldn't lose the weight but I would start new attempts and then allow myself to fail and regain, then try again -- over and over and I thought, I can't do it, I'll never lose weight, I would do anything to lose it. Really? If you'd do ANYTHING to lose weight, then how about eat healthy and exercise? I mean every day -- just DO it, not try to do it or fail to do it or hope I'm motivated to do it -- just DO it. Motivated or not, whether I feel like it or not, I just eat right and exercise every day. Not only does it work, but if you keep doing it whether you want to or not, a strange thing happens -- you start to want to. All the time. Your habits, your lifestyle changes and you don't have to 'try' anymore because it's just what you do now. How you live now.


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