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Yet Another Risky Pill for Weight Loss

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Are you ready for a miraculous weight loss pill?  Aren’t we all?  As much as we’d all love to believe that they finally came up with a pill that will melt away the pounds, most of us are also worrying about the side effects, and rightly so.  The FDA just approved yet another wonder drug, but it will still be up to the public to find out just how safe it is.

On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration allowed another weight loss pill to be put on the market.  It’s called Qsymia, and though it does have risky side effects, they believe the benefits outweigh the dangers.  Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of FDA’s research department said that “Obesity threatens the overall wellbeing of patients and is a major public health concern.”  Because obesity impacts two-thirds of Americans, it does indeed seem like a major issue, but taking care of that problem with a pill is quite another matter.  Some past weight loss drugs approved by the FDA were found to have very dangerous side effects that cost people their lives.  You might remember the rise and fall of the popular diet pill Fen-Phen for example.  Even after years of testing in the lab, some drugs can prove to have side effects that either weren’t observed in the controlled tests or were ignored as minor drawbacks.

Qysymia is a combination for stimulants and anti-seizure drugs and is one of the first new diet pills to become FDA approved in 13 years.  Its side effects and risks include a fast heart rate, metabolic acidosis, birth defects, and heart damage.  It is only approved for those considered obese, which is a BMI of 30 or more, and those with a BMI of 27 or more and who have a weight-related medical condition.  The two experts on the FDA panel who voted against the approval of Qsymia worry that it will have “severe, even fatal, consequences.”  Dr. Woodcock, however, believes that if it’s used properly and in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise, it could be just the thing we need to halt the obesity epidemic.

I don’t know about other physicians, but I plan to stick to the less-miraculous prescription for a health weight- eating right and staying active.  There just can’t be a pill for everything!


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.



Fattening Foods Give Women Yet another Reason to Cut Down

Monday, June 4th, 2012

As if we need another reason to feel guilty about those fattening foods we love so much, women now need to be concerned about how those kinds of foods can impact their mental health.  While we already know that fattening foods can cause obesity, increase the risk of heart disease, and even bring on diabetes, studies now indicate the type of fat found in those foods also slows our cognitive functions.

Over 6000 women participated in the Women’s Health Study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Researchers overseeing the study took surveys about the types of foods they ate and with what frequency before and after the study.  They also performed cognitive function tests at the beginning of the study, after two years, and then again when the study was finished after four total years.   What they found was that certain foods impacted how fast cognitive decline happened.  Olivia Okereke, a doctor from the Department of Psychiatry reported that, “when looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did.”  Their results showed that women who ate a lot of foods high in saturated fats had a cognitive decline much more significant than those who ate foods high in monounsaturated fats or who had less fat in their diet altogether.  In other words, those who ate foods with animal fats, like red meat, dairy products, and butter, were less likely to maintain a sharp mind compared to those who ate plant fats, like avocado and olive oil.

Although this study is revealing, you won’t find me giving up my favorite ice cream or opting out of that nice juicy steak once in a while, and that’s ok.  By simply reducing how often we eat foods like this or replacing their saturated fat ingredients with monounsaturated fats, we can do a lot to keep our minds sharp and our bodies fit.  I guess it’s finally time to try that olive oil ice cream I’ve been hearing about!


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


Baby’s tastebuds mirror Mom’s food choices?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

You’ve probably heard the claim that exposing a baby in the womb to Mozart will increase his or her IQ. Despite the hype, the research doesn’t support major leaps in smarts (but, if nothing else, it might improve your child’s musical taste, later on).

Now, there’s some evidence showing that you may be able to shape a yet-to-be-born child’s taste in food.

“The flavor and odors of what mothers eat show up in the amniotic fluid, which is swallowed by the fetus, and in breast milk. There is evidence that fetal taste buds are mature in utero by 13 to 15 weeks, with taste receptor cells appearing at 16 weeks, according to researchers.

“’With flavor learning, you can train a baby’s palate with repetitive exposure,” said Kim Trout, director of the nurse midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner program at Georgetown University.

“Trout recently co-authored a paper that reviews the evidence on prenatal flavor learning and its implications for controlling childhood obesity and diabetes, among the country’s most pressing health problems…”


Although I’m just as skeptical of this claim as I am about the one for baby-and-Mozart, I see real benefit in giving this a try, whether it makes your baby want broccoli or not. That’s because, in my practice, I see too many women gaining too much weight during pregnancy, which can not only cause complications for mother and baby, but can be almost impossible to shed once your baby is born.

So, bring on the Brussels sprouts, and eschew the Twinkies. Pass by the apple pie and bite into a nice juicy apple instead. Whether it does a thing to change your baby’s mind about what tastes good later in life, it will do a world of good for you both right now.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH