Nutritional studies conducted in the English-speaking Caribbean in 1995 by Professor Knox Hagley show that about one out of every two women, aged 40 and over, is obese and that obese women had 5.2 times the risk of developing diabetes than non-obese women.
The drive to reduce weight has spawned a weight-loss industry that is producing a plethora of goods and services valued within the United States at US$30 billion per year. Advertisements on cable television promote shakes, fasts, malts, puddings, books, diet plans, aerobic equipment, medicines and other methods that claim to enable weight loss.
Forty per cent of women in the United States report that they are currently trying to lose weight and increasingly, the Jamaican consumer is seeking to make informed choices about available methods and products. However, balanced nutrition and exercise remain the cornerstone of a good weight-management programme.
In Jamaica, weight loss products run the gamut. On prescription are some fat absorption blockers, such as orlistat, which work in the stomach and small intestines to block ingested fats. Silbutramine, another prescription drug, induces a feeling of fullness and reduces food consumption.
Appetite suppressants, including Clobenzorex and Phentermine, of the amphetamine group, are available here. These reduce the craving for food acting at the level of the brain. However, amphetamines are known to cause dependence and their use must be carefully monitored.
Most herbal or nutritional weight management products contain ingredients that reduce water retention, reduce cholesterol and fat or are natural appetite suppressants. Psylium husks provide a feeling of fullness and cuts down on hunger pangs; L-Phenylalanine and L-Tyrosine tell the brain that you are not hungry; Chromium picolinate and Vitamin B3 cut down on sugar cravings; Lecithin is fat emulsifier; Vitamin C with bioflavanoids speed up slow metabolism; Calcium, Inositol, L-methionine and Choline help to break down fats; dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can moderate fat production; L-Glutamine reduces carbohydrate cravings and the Vitamin B complex aids digestion.
Most herbal preparations, including Fat Burners and Fat Blockers, packaged as capsules, teas, liquids or tablets contain several ingredients, some of which interact with commonly used medicines. Consumers must seek advice from a health professional before purchasing them.
Ellen Campbell Grizzle, director, Information and Research, National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA)/ president, Caribbean Association of Pharmacists.