Life after sibutramine

The year 2010 was marked by dozens of bad news-stories surrounding the "miracle" weight-loss drug sibutramine. Many of the most popular slimming pills containing sibutramine have been pulled off the market due to health concerns. First it was Simply Slim (which has since been relaunched without the dangerous ingredient), and now Abbott Laboratories have announced the voluntary withdrawal of Reductil and Ectiva, after consultation with the Medicines Control Council (MCC).

Sibutramine-containing slimming pills were also pulled from the shelves in the USA, Australia and Taiwan; and in Europe the use of sibutramine for slimming products has been banned. It will just be a question of time before the generic slimming pills containing sibutramine, such as Ciplatrim, are also withdrawn.
As a result, SA slimmers are in a frenzy – how will they be able to lose weight without access to sibutramine? For many of these slimmers, sibutramine worked well (by suppressing their appetite and increasing their metabolism), and many did not experience any of the dangerous side-effects such as raised blood pressure and heart palpitations which could potentially lead to a heart attack or a stroke. However, more and more studies confirm sibutramine's increased risk for heart disease and stroke; and the cold hard truth is, no matter how desperate you are to lose weight, it's simply not worth taking the chance. Your health should always come first.

So, what now? Is there life after sibutramine? The good news is, yes. In her latest weekly article, DietDoc pointed out that people who really struggle with weight loss (despite following a diet and exercising regularly) could be insulin-resistant. This condition can be treated and even reversed, but unfortunately far too few people know about it. According to the latest stats up to 26.9 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are insulin-resistant, a number which is predicted to rise to 47.9 million in 2030. Could you be one of them?

While some people may have a genetic predisposition to insulin-resistance, many develop the condition through unhealthy lifestyles.

Unhealthy diets loaded with refined carbohydrates and sugars cause our bodies to overproduce insulin in an attempt to convert all the glucose into energy. Over time, our bodies can't cope anymore and become unable to utilise insulin properly. As a result we have too much glucose in the blood, and the body goes into crisis-management mode by converting it into fat and preventing it from being released again from the fat cells - hence the inability to lose weight. You will also feel tired all the time, and crave more and more sugars and carbs in an attempt to up your energy levels. And, so a vicious circle begins.

If left untreated, insulin-resistance can develop into type 2 diabetes. However, if you act now, you can avoid it all together by changing to a low-fat, low-glycaemic index (GI) diet. Low-GI foods can help to control your blood sugar levels, which in turn will help to control your cravings. By following a low-GI diet you will not only lose weight on the long term, you will also be able to normalise blood sugar levels and reverse insulin-resistance. Contact a dietician to work out a low-GI diet that will address your specific needs. You can also check out Health24's Glycaemic index section to learn more or visit the website of the GI Foundation.

Remember, there is no quick fix for weight problems. Rather be responsible by changing to a healthy lifestyle and diet in order to have good health for years to come.

(Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Nutrition Newsletter, November 2010)


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