Are you tired of being told what to eat?  I know I am.  The Ramble will cover many bases this week from the weight loss pills Alli and Xenical, the purported herbal remedy St. John’s Wart and the dangers of snowboarding.

If you like to eat a certain way, bully for you, but stay out of my kitchen cupboards and keep it to yourself.  I love to eat everything and I fully intend to do so.  Food isn’t medicine; it’s joy. Life is too short to count calories, to be afraid of foods and to avoid food and drink that brings joy.

Alli and Xenical.  These are two drugs that are used to help people lose weight by limiting the amount of fat that the body will absorb in any one sitting.  Xenical is the prescription brand, while Alli is the over-the-counter, 50% weaker version that has been on the market for a year.  Since Alli hit the market, 4 million people have given it a shot, a number that is under whelming according to industry analysts.

I’ll hazard a guess here as to why Alli hasn’t been a big hit; can you say oily discharge, loose stools and more frequent stools that are hard to control?  You see, while Alli can absorb a certain amount of fat, if you eat too much fat that fat has to go somewhere.  More accurately it has to leave somewhere, and that somewhere is from where all food eventually leaves.  We’re all adults here, so you know what I’m saying.

GlaxoSmithKline is banking on Alli’s success, but I’m not betting on it.  To the drug maker’s credit, they have been upfront with the side effects of their drug, in both the prescription and over-the-counter form, and are not promoting the pill as a “just take it and lose weight,” kind of thing.

GSK is telling potential users that in order to get the most out of this drug – and the least of the “treatment effects” – they must make changes to their eating and exercise habits.  I don’t think this message resonates with a lot of folks, especially since Alli’s side effects can be somewhat unpleasant even under the best of circumstances.

St. John’s Wart Doesn’t Help Kids With ADHD.  A study funded by a grant from the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine through the National Institute of Health has found that herbal remedy St. John’s Wart had the same lack of effect as dummy pills – placebo – in treating kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  There was a lot of hype that St. John’s Wart could be used as an alternative to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of ADHD.

The chemistry of this assertion is beside the point as research has found St. John’s Wart doesn’t offer a viable treatment alternative.  This is just another example of an herbal remedy not standing up to scientific scrutiny as Echinacea, saw palmetto and glucosamine and chondroitin have all failed to live up to the hype in recent studies.

Snowboarding Can Be Dangerous to Your Health. Snowboarding is the leading cause of outdoor injury, accounting for 25% of all emergency room visits, with sledding and hiking coming in as the second and third most potentially dangerous outdoor activities.  Half of all snowboarding accidents are broken bones and sprains, with head injuries accounting for only 7% of these injuries, and men are twice as likely than women to be injured.  Extreme sports have a downside.


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