Kimberly Garrison | Thinking about Alli? Beware of its unpleasant side effectsRELATED STORIES
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WELL, IF YOU don't mind having uncontrollable bowel movements and flatulence, then Alli - the new FDA-approved, over-the-counter weight-loss drug - may be the miracle you've been praying for.
Puh-leeze . . . Don't you believe it.
Don't be fooled by drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline's clever marketing and play-on-words. The company expects Alli to generate a whopping $1.5 billion in annual sales. But trust me, Alli is no ally in your personal battle of the bulge.
"Sure you may end up a few pounds thinner, but you won't be a very nice first date," said Dr. Mike Cirigliano, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Moreover, he added, "there are potential risks of vitamin deficiencies and interaction with other medications."
Even the Alli Web site (www.myalli.com
) warns: "You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work."
Ironically, the only way to minimize some of the side effects is to follow a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet. Ha!
"I'd call the product 'Alien' for what it's going to do to the unsuspecting," Carolyn Dean, a physician and nutritionist (www.carolyndean.com
) told me. She recommends losing weight the old-fashioned way, with good nutrition and exercise.
Oh, what a novel idea.
How Alli works
Unlike traditional diet pills, Alli does not suppress your appetite. It works by tricking your body into not absorbing about 25 percent of the fat you consume.
The drug maker recommends eating no more than 15 grams of fat per meal. Any more than that could worsen those unpleasant side effects such as cramps, gas or, ahem, anal leakage.
But most typical American meals exceed 15 grams of fat. Just one tablespoon of mayonnaise or a pat of butter, for example, has 10 grams of fat!
A monthly supply of Alli will cost you $59.99. Annually, that's $720 - the price of a two-year membership at a moderately priced commercial gym.
How much will you lose?
According to GlaxcoSmithKline's Web site, you will lose 50 percent more weight using Alli. Instead of losing 10 pounds, for example, you'd lose 15.
However, please remember that Alli is a 50 percent lower dosage of the unpopular prescription drug Xenical (also known as Orlistat). In clinical trials of Orlistat, inactive obese people lost a mere 3 to 4 percent of their body weight over a two-year period. Those results are appallingly pitiful.
When will we learn?
There is no magic, easy, quick-fix solution to our ever-expanding national waistline. As a nation, we need to get serious about our health and fitness and manage the obesity epidemic with the only two known permanent cures: portion control and exercise.
Don't be seduced by clever ads and their false promise of getting something for nothing. Permanent weight loss requires persistent commitment, hard work and behavior modification.
And if you don't believe me, listen to Dr. Gary Foster. He's director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at the Temple University Medical School, and he wrote the GlaxcoSmithKlein-sponsored book, "Are You Losing It? Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind."
"This is an important landmark for overweight people," he said in defense of Alli. "Alli is the first OTC weight loss drug that has been tested for safety and efficacy. It is a step in the right direction."
However, he cautioned, "I want to be clear that this is for people who are willing to change their eating habits and work hard. Alli keeps people on guard and has behavioral effects. If
you're not serious - don't do it." *
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com)
E-mail her at
. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo! Chat with her on her Daily News weblog, the Girlfriends' Locker Room, at www.girlfriendslockerroom.com
. Her new podcast, "Philly Fitness and Health," is available for download every Thursday at www.philly.com