Health Matters: Do the new trendy diet drugs work?

December 12, 2012

Editor’s note: The following is the first in a new series of columns by student and faculty members of Physicians for Social Responsibility at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

By Krystyna Majkut
Medical Student, U of I College of Medicine at Rockford
and Paul Wedel, M.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor, U of I College of Medicine at Rockford

Dr. Oz recently recommended a few new diet ideas. With millions of Americans trying to lose weight, which of these trends really do what they claim? Students of University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford investigate.

Raspberry Ketones

This new homeopathic supplement is flying off the shelves after Dr. Oz’s recent high praise.

Raspberry Ketones assert it increases metabolism by influencing a hormone called adiponectin, which is present in large amounts in skinny people but in small amounts in larger individuals. This means the pill jumpstarts the metabolism toward being thinner, but healthy eating and daily exercise are needed to see actual weight loss.

The theory behind the pill is sound; however, there are no human trials that support the connection between raspberry ketones and adiponectin (mouse trials resulted in weight loss, but mice and people have different metabolic influences). It is difficult to make the judgment that Raspberry Ketones with diet and exercise result in a larger wieght loss than diet and exercise alone.

Is it safe? Not enough evidence exists to make this judgment.

Is it worth it? If other diet plans have failed, this inexpensive pill may be of some weight loss benefit in some people.

Bottom line: Switching to a diet consisting of smaller portions with plenty of vegetables and daily exercise is much more important to losing weight and keeping it off.

HCG Plan

This popular dieting trend promises rapid weight loss and decreased appetite through a low-caloric regimen and HCG hormone.

The HCG is credited for the loss of appetite and comes in daily prescription injections or homeopathic drops. The injections are expensive because a full physical and continual doctor supervision are required. The drops, on the other hand, are inexpensive but may not contain HCG.

Decreased appetite enables people to eat the 500-calorie diet that is part of this plan and is responsible for the rapid weight loss. Very low-calorie diets such as this one can be dangerous and require close medical supervision. Additionally, since the plan is so new, side effects and long-term consequences are unknown. Known complications are mood swings, hair loss, cessation of menstrual periods, nausea and other intolerable side effects.

As with every diet, many people successfully lose the weight initially, only to gain it back — and more. The reason for the rapid regain of weight is that the HCG Plan stimulates a famine response state, which causes the body to store all available calories as fat when the 500-calorie diet is relaxed, as it must be since 500 calories per day is not compatible with life.

Obviously, maintenance of portion control and exercise after completing the HCG Plan are crucial to maintain the lower weight (but, unfortunately, not a guarantee that those pounds will not come back).

In truth, there is no hard evidence that HCG actually suppresses the appetite, even though there are plenty of anecdotal stories and celebrity endorsements.

Is it worth it? The HCG Plan involves a huge monetary, adherence and time commitment for a sustained weight loss that is unlikely to be maintained long-term.

Is it safe? HCG is a hormone, and all hormonal therapy carries a cancer risk. Furthermore, this radical plan should not be the first consideration when setting out to lose weight, but might be considered an option when other attempts have failed.

Bottom line: the HCG plan should only be attempted under the supervision of a doctor with prescription-strength HCG injections.

Krystyna Majkut is a medical student and member of the student group Physicians for Social Responsibility at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford. Paul Wedel, M.D., is clinical assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, and faculty adviser for the student group Physicians for Social Responsibility at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue


  1. Ray Garcia, MD

    December 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    How exciting to see PSR getting at Rockford and getting involved in the community!

  2. vit

    January 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    There are also a lot of weight loss products and dietary supplements available in the market that people try. Some supplements claim to be fat blockers; others are natural carb blockers, and even some that claim to be lipotropic or help to break down the fat in the body. You will also find a big number of dietary supplements for weight loss that become popular simply because of their ability to burn and dispose of fat. Due to its fat dissolving quality, a substance called carnitine or L-carnitine has become quite commonly used weight loss dietary supplement. And you must have heard of other weight loss dietary supplements like green tea and dietary fiber. These are antioxidants whose function is to help flush the toxins out of the body. Flushing out these toxins are helpful because toxins are supposed to be one of the reasons why fatty deposits remain stuck in a person’s body. Using antioxidants like green tea and dietary fiber supplements help expedite the burning and disposing of these fatty deposits in the body.

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