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Taking pills and supplements

Pills and supplements both have their uses, but only in moderation and only as long as strict guidelines are followed.

Over-the-counter (OTC) diet pills

The 1991/2 Weight Loss Practices Survey, sponsored by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, found that 5 per cent of women and 2 per cent of men trying to loseweight use diet pills. Products considered by the FDA to be OTC weight- control drugs are primarily those containing the active ingredient phenylpropanolamine (PPA), such as Dexatrim and Acutrim. PPA is available over the counter for weight control in a 75mg controlled-release-dosage form. The medicine should be used in combination with a restricted diet and exercise.

Diet Start

Using diet pills containing PPA will not make a big difference in the rate of weight loss, says Robert Sherman of the FDA’s Office of OTC Drug Evaluation. ‘Even the best studies show only about a half pound (250g) greater weight loss per week using PPA combined with diet and exercise,’ he adds. Sherman cautions that the recommended dosage of these pills should not be exceeded because of the risk of possible adverse effects, such as raised blood pressure and heart palpitations.

Supplements

To rely on taking pills as a way of supplying nutrients is not ideal, for in a perfect world such nutrients should come from our food. But when you consider the quality of some of our food — fruit and vegetables grown in mineral-depleted soil, picked before they have ripened and shipped over vast distances in refrigeration, then put into long-term storage; meat full of hormones; grains stripped of most of their nutritional content — then taking a good multivitamin supplement and possibly extra vitamin C can benefit most people. And while you are trying to balance your blood-sugar levels, reduce body fat and rebuild lean muscle tissue, there are a few supplements that may help.

Key supplements

Magnesium

A fundamentally important mineral that counters insulin resistance.

It is hugely deficient in the Western diet. Consider taking 230-600mg per day, unless you have suffered kidney failure or have a high degree of AV heart block.

Quercetin

A flavonoid with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that helpsto control high insulin levels and inhibit fat production. Take 200-400mg three times a day before meals.

Omega-3 fats

If you don’t eat fish, take 1,000-3,000mg of fish oil daily in capsule form. Vegetarians can use flaxseed oil or crushed flaxseeds instead of fish oil capsules. Try flaxseed oil in salad dressings (or even in smoothies) to ensure you get enough of this health-enhancing fat.

Chromium

A trace element that plays an important role in carbohydratemetabolism and regulating blood-sugar levels. It has proved useful in treating diabetes and shown to be effective in encouraging the body to lose fat, not muscle, when dieting. Take 400-600mcg of chromium picolinate or chromiumpolynicotinate a day.

Lcarnitine

Used extensively by athletes to ensure maximum performance inendurance or aerobic sports. It is also useful for weight loss because it is involved in burning fat in muscle cells. Take 1,000-3,000mg per day.

DIETARY MYTH

Myth: I will get quicker results if I use diet pills.

Fact: there are no shortcuts — no magic pills. Losing weight sensibly and safely requires a multifaceted approach that includes setting reasonable weight-loss goals, changing eating habits and getting adequate exercise. Appetite suppressants (diet pills) may help some people in the short term, but they are not a substitute for adopting healthy eating habits in the long term.