America has become a society obsessed with appearance, especially weight.We are conditioned at a young age to believe the only way to be normal is to bethin. This norm is projected to millions of Americans each day throughtelevision, magazines, billboards and every other form of media and advertising.How are people to know acceptance and happiness with themselves and others whenour culture propagates what the perfect body should be.It is the search for the elusive, perfect body that has created a thirty-three billion dollars a year weight loss industry. Yet few reduce their bodyfat and even fewer maintain their weight loss beyond two to three years. Thisleads to yo-yo dieting and increased low self-esteem of people constantlystruggling to become what they see as a normal member of society.
A problem that lies within this problem, is the chronically obese person.Obesity is when one’s body wieght is 25-30% above normal. While overweight is20-30 pounds over normal.
Most people, including health care providers seethe problem with obesity as eating too much and exercising too little. But intruth, for many obese people the problem lies with genetic predisposition,metabolic problems, binge eating or sometimes all. These factors make dietingvirtually impossible because these problems are not ones that can be solved bysimply cutting calories. Especially the problem of binge eating.Compulsive “binge” eating in the obese is not caused by just wanting to eat.The want to eat is caused by looking for a sense of security. A sense ofsecurity wanted because there are poor or no coping skills for stress ordepression and low self-esteem.
Therefore, when a compulsive overeater or bingeeater diet, the diet is doomed to fail because the weight returns when theperson resumes normal eating. Thus creating an even greater depression.Now many obese people have medical research to turn to as to why the weightthey lost usually comes back.
Recent research has strongly backed the set-pointtheory, which says that when an individual loses weight, the body’s metabolicrate adjusts in order to return to the baseline weight.Research with animals has revealed a protein called leptin. Leptincirculates in the blood and signals the set point mechanism in the brain, whichtells how much fat is present in the body. The protein is believed to beproduced by an obesity gene called ob. When leptin is injected into rodents, itlessened appetite and increased calories being burned. However, leptin is stillvery much in early experimental stages, because even though it may gauge howmuch fat you have it does not at this point tell how much you want.
Another recent breakthrough was the discovery of unocortin. Unocortinappears to suppress appetite when the body is under severe stress. It is acousin of the brain chemical that generates the body’s “fight or flight”response. Unocortin was discovered at the Salk Institute, when a researcher wasstudying a neuropeptide which activates body stress reactors. He noticedreceptors in parts of the brain where the chemical did not exist. However, itmay be a long time before unocortin is actually a consumer drug. At this time,the only way unocortin works is to be directly injected into the brain. Acompany called Neurocin Biosciences, is already researching the brain receptorunocortin locks onto to work.
For now, the serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs are the only diet drugsbeing used in the U.S. These drugs work by affecting eating behavior.
Eatingbehavior is the result of a mixture of neurotransmitters. The link betweenserotonin and eating disorders was discovered in the early 1980’s. Theserotonin inhibitors include Lovan, Redux and phen-fen (Phentermine andFenfluramine).
Phen-fen is the drug combination currently recieving so muchattention. Phentermine is similar to an amphetamine and it works to increasemetabolic rate. Fenfluramine(brand name Pondimin) in-creases the serotoninlevel, which decreases appetite. However, neither drug works alone. They onlyhave optimum effect together.Phen-fen is how I became interested in the research of new obesity drugs.
I first learned of phen-fen in June. The article I read in the Knoxville paperabout people who had taken the medicine, showed it to be what I and many othershad been waiting for. I finally believed my real chance to lose weight hadarrived. So with real anticipation, I made the two and half hour drive toMonticello, Kentucky. My first month on the medicine was great, I lost fourteenpounds and