Lose Weight… With One Tiny Pill

By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Newsflash – October 2008

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Due to reports of some serious psychiatric problems and even suicide among patients taking Rimonabant (Acomplia), the European Medicines Agency recommended the suspension of prescribing this drug to obese people. Weight Loss Resources would always recommend calorie counting for weight loss and that, should you decide on using pills, that you investigate the possible side effects thoroughly.

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We all know pill popping isn’t the answer when it comes to losing weight and keeping if off. But clinical trials with a new anti-obesity drug look promising. The drug, called rimonabant, was developed after scientists noticed that cannabis smokers often had increased appetites and frequently experienced the ‘munchies’.

They worked on the idea that if substances from cannabis called cannabinoids stimulated appetite, blocking the cannabinoid receptors in the brain might reduce appetite.

Furthermore, blocking these receptors might also help people to give up smoking as these receptors not only appear to be involved in controlling food intake, but also have a role to play in tobacco dependence.

Earlier trials with the drug, which works by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brain, have already shown promising results. But now a new study published in medical journal The Lancet, confirms the drug can help with weight loss and reduce the risk factors associated with heart disease.

In the study, more than 1,500 obese people were given a calorie-controlled diet, together with either 5mg or 20mg of rimonabant each day or a dummy drug. After one year, two thirds of the participants taking the largest dose had lost at least 5 percent of their weight. Better still, of these, 39 percent lost more than 10 percent. Meanwhile, patients on the 20mg dose lost on average, 4cm from their waist and risk factors for heart disease including raised cholesterol, insulin resistance and the presence of metabolic syndrome improved.

Professor Luc Van Gaal who led the study says, “In this study, treatment with rimonabant over one year led to sustained, clinically meaningful weight loss, reduction in waist circumference and associated improvements in several cardiovascular risk factors.”

Weight Loss Resources says…

It’s great that research continues to be carried out in an effort to help find a drug that can aid weight loss. However, it’s unlikely we’ll ever be in a situation where diet and exercise become redundant in the fight against obesity. Finding a miracle pill that enables us to lose weight while constantly overindulging on a poor diet and doing no exercise is still a long way off. Even in this study, the participants had to follow a calorie-controlled diet!

With regard to this drug, more trials still need to be carried out, although the manufacturers are hoping the drug, which will be marketed under the name Acomplia, will be available next year. We’ll keep you updated on any progress but in the meantime, it’s not worth getting too excited and giving up your diet!

A closer look at the data shows that while the weight loss achieved with rimonabant is statistically significant and certainly improves health, in real terms, losing 10 percent of your weight is unlikely to get you into those size-10 trousers you’ve always dreamed of!

The drug is only suitable for people who have a body mass index of over 30 or over 27 if there are other health problems. This means someone who weighs 14st, may lose up to 20lb in a year by taking this drug. That’s good news, but let’s face it, most of us can achieve this – and a whole lot more – by dieting and exercising alone. Bottom line, even if this drug does get approved, it might help you lose some weight and improve your overall heart health – but it won’t make you skinny!

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