Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cactus Fiber May Fight Obesity

Today, there are three new, or relatively new, FDA approved obesity drugs on the market that were developed for long term use. The drugs are Qsymia, Belviq and  Contrave. Orlistat, another long term use obesity drug, has been on the market longer than the other three, gaining FDA approval in 1999. Orlistat has a prescription form called Xenical, and an over the counter form called Alli. Alli gained FDA approval in 2007. Orlistat works by preventing about 25 percent of the fat you eat from being digested. The fat, instead, passes out of the body with bowel movements, causing weight loss. And cactus fiber may be capable of aiding in weight loss using the same mechanism.

A study published in the December issue of "Current Therapeutic Research" indicates that  cactus fiber can prevent the digestion of an appreciable amount of fat. In the randomized double blind 45-day study, healthy adults were fed cactus fiber. The researchers concluded that cactus fiber was able to "significantly promote fecal fat excretion in healthy adults." More specifically, the researchers indicated that "cactus fiber helps in reducing body weight by binding to dietary fat and increasing its excretion, thus reducing dietary fat available for absorption."

It should be noted, as the study indicates, that Orlistat and substances that work like Orlistat cause side effects. They cause gastrointestinal problems, including  increased bowel movement, "soft stools, fatty oils evacuation, and oily spotting..." But while there are side effects associated with Orlistat and similar substances, the side effects are not as severe as those associated with other obesity drugs.
 
Obesity drugs, in the past, have caused serious side effects for various users. The most infamous example was the obesity drug Fen-phen. Fen-phen caused heart related problems in some users. Fen-phen consisted of two drugs, Fenfluramine and Phentermine. Fenfluramine caused the heart related problems, and in 1997, the FDA requested that Fenfluramine be taken off the market. American Home Products took the drug off the market, and Fen-phen ceased to exist.
Meridia, another FDA approved obesity drug, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, exposed users to side effects such as headaches, high blood pressure and constipation. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, asked the FDA to have Meridia taken off the market. Meridia is no longer sold as a weight lost drug.
While Orlistat, cactus fiber, and similar substances have their own set of side effects, these substances might be worth considering. At the very least, weight loss service providers should monitor research related to these substances. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Cost of Obesity Provides an Incentive for Companies to Fine Tune Wellness Programs

Employers offer wellness programs to improve and maintain the health of their employees. By improving and maintaining the health of their employees, employers hope that productivity will rise and health care costs will decline. If wellness programs can be made to work for the long term, these programs can be quite beneficial, since employers spend more on benefits for obese employees than they do on benefits for normal weight employees.

According to a Reuters estimate, "obesity costs U.S. businesses a total of $13 billion a year." And "The [2014] May/June American Journal of Health Promotion reported that total health claims for morbidly obese employees cost their employers more than double the costs for normal-weight employees. Employers spend an average of $3,830 per year on benefits for normal-weight workers, and $8,067 for obese workers (2011 dollars)."

It is reasonable to believe that if a company puts an effective wellness program in place, the program will lead to an improvement in the company's bottom line. Indeed, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that the return on investment an employer might experience could be 3 to 6 dollars "for each dollar invested over" 2 to 5 years, if the employer chooses a comprehensive wellness program. The employer would also need to select health plans that deliver the necessary coverage and support for important preventive services.

And Right Management, a subsidiary of Manpower Inc.  concludes that a good wellness program can heighten an organization’s competitive edge by raising employee productivity and performance.

So an employer might have important business reasons to install a workable wellness program. And while there is evidence that these programs are often not as successful as desired, we believe that these programs can be effective. And obesity medicine specialists can play a key role in making these programs effective. These specialists can work with employers and wellness program organizers to customize the programs for specific company environments.

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