Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We'll Never Forget Either, Mr. Burton

Yesterday's article in the NY Times concerns a new push for an over the counter version of the diet drug Xenical. Glaxo, who purchased the commercial rights from Roche, plans to call the OTC version Alli, pronounced like ally. However, they face a bit of a marketing uphill battle, due to the icky side effects of the drug. In what's referred to charmingly as "the oops factor," Xenical can cause flatulence, diarrhea and incontinence, especially after consumption of high fat foods.

Glaxo executive Steve Burton, a Xenical user, recalls, "I'll never forget having a fish sandwich and loading it up with tartar sauce and having French fries." Lucky for all of us, we are spared further details of his "oops" episode, save for the fact that it was a weekend, allowing him to go home and change.

Mr. Burton, who lost and kept off 60 pounds states that his results are better than the drug's typical user will achieve because he has been particularly faithful to his regimen of exercise and diet. In fact, the Xenical website very reasonably reminds hopefuls that Xenical is not a magic pill and must be used in conjunction with a reduced calorie diet of no more than 30% of calories from fat and increased regular physical exercise.

This does beg the question though: if Xenical forces you to avoid foods high in fat, else run the risk of soiling your drawers, perhaps it indicates that one can successfully avoid foods higher in fat when the consequence is more immediate and unpleasant. In the short term, behind-the-scenes killers like heart disease, cholesterol and blood pressure are just not that compelling when weighed (sorry) against a tempting hot fudge sundae, whereas poopy pants on a date really is. And that may be just what Xenical is good for--making the consequences of crappy eating (can't seem to stop myself) immediate and highly unpleasant.

I tried to search for any studies that compared Xenical users with those that had a placebo, but so many online journals are for subscribers only. Elitist bastards. I did find this article that found Xenical more effective than just lifestyle changes for overweight teens but it wasn't clear whether the control group had a Xenical placebo or not. For sure, if someone told me that I might be taking a medicine that would make me poo myself with high fat foods, I would probably avoid these foods.

Remember when Frito-Lay came out with their fat free chips with the fat substitute Olestra, called Wow? That name quickly became a joke as the side effects became more well-known, as in wow! I have no bowel control! They've since been renamed as Frito Lay Light. Anyway, check out The Center for Science in the Public Interest about Olestra, or Olean. According to this website, Olestra is the most complained about food additive in the history of the FDA. I have no idea if this is really true, but if you have an "oops" episode of your own, send your complaint to them and they will forward it to the FDA.

Sadly, things that are delicious because of fat that have the fat taken out of them cease to taste good. Case in point: low-fat or even worse--fat-free cheese. You're never sure if you've removed the plastic wrapping because fat free cheese is such a close cousin of plastic. Due to the lack of fat, it doesn't really melt but rather lays limply over your food, sweating unpleasantly, sadly aware that its efforts to mimic high fat cheese deliciousness fall far short of the mark. I can ditch the half and half and even the whole milk. But anything less than 2% milk in coffee isn't good. I would just as soon add dishwater to my coffee because that is what is tastes like. Fat free half and half? Read the ingredients list. Recognize those things? Me either. I'll take the artery clogging evil I know, thanks and since I don't relish the the idea of donning a Depends undergarment at 34, I'll skip the Olestra, too.

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