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August 2020
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A Pill Worthy of Pillory

Healthy School Lunch Research Indicates why Diet Pills Deserve Scorn 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, after 25 years, a disturbing trend may have finally leveled off. The disturbing trend? Obesity in children.

That’s right. Since 1980, there’s been a steady increase in the number of children classified as “obese,” which is anyone that has a body mass index over 30. Since 2004, the 11 percent of children who are severely obese and the 16 percent of children who are obese has not increased.

Researchers and doctors, when asked about the leveling off, believe much of the credit goes to policies schools have taken in the cafeteria encouraging more nutritious meal options while discouraging the availability of vending machines that are so often frequented by children during lunch hours or at school day’s end.

If this is indeed the case, our children are all the better for it and our schools deserve a round of applause.  But if the leveling off has more to do with diet pills than better exercise and eating habits, then the round of applause will be drowned out by a chorus of boos aimed at drug companies.

While I’m all for supplementation, I am avowedly against diet pills, particularly when it comes to children.  Not only do they not work, but according to a recent study, they may adversely affect a child’s brain development.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) investigated a new drug that’s widely available in Europe.  This drug, apparently, contains a chemical that “blocks” neurons in the brain from reaching brain receptors that signal to the body when it’s hungry.

To determine whether this drug adversely impacted the brain, mice were given a version of the weight loss pill that contained a compound similar to the one found in the weight loss pill called Acomplia.  The doctors then closed one of each of the mice’s eyes, then had the mice go through an obstacle course to see how their actions adapted to seeing out of only one eye.  Due to the chemicals’ blocking the brain’s receptors, called cannabinoid receptors, the mice acted as though both their eyes were open.  This indicated to the researchers that their brain was not able to adapt to visual changes, and that this was due to the rimonabant-like compound in the drug they’d ingested (Rimonabant is the compound in Acomplia that “blocks” the cannabinoid receptors).

Acomplia has not been sanctioned for use in the United States due to observed psychiatric issues 40 percent of heart patients had with the drug in testing.  Nevertheless, the maker of the drug, Sanofi, say it’s safe for use in adults and stand behind its effectiveness.

Quite simply, there’s only one truly effective – and safe – way to keep our children’s weight in check:  a nutritious diet combined with regular exercise.  As adults, we ought to take the same advice.

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