Alli: Diet Miracle Or Health Disaster?

As reported by David Gutierrez, staff writer NaturalNews Diet Drug Poisons Kidneys, Hampers Cancer Drugs (12/12)

The popular weight loss drug orlistat, marketed under names including Alli and Xenical, is highly toxic to the kidneys and liver, and may interact dangerously with other drugs, according to a study conducted by a researcher from the University of Rhode Island and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Researcher Bingfang Yan has already notified the FDA of his findings, some of which were published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology.

Orlistat received FDA approval as a prescription drug in 1999. With the release of Alli in 2007, it became the first over-the-counter weight loss drug approved by the agency. According to Yan, it has been the most widely used weight loss drug in the United States for at least 10 years. The drug works by preventing the intestine from absorbing fat. According to the conventional wisdom, orlistat itself also remains in the gut, unabsorbed. "But orlistat is reportedly absorbed, and certainly internal organs such as the liver and kidney are exposed to this drug upon absorption," Yan said.

Highly Toxic...
Even at the time of Alli's release, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline admitted that approximately half of users could be expected to experience gastrointestinal side effects, including loose stools and anal leakage. But reports of more sinister side effects soon emerged, such that by 2010, the FDA issued a warning that users of orlistat should immediately contact a doctor if they suffered any of the symptoms associated with liver damage - anything from fever or fatigue to nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, brown urine or jaundice. "Since it has been available over-the-counter, there has been a drastic increase of toxicity among patients using the drug," Yan said. "It has been linked to severe liver failure, acute pancreatic failure and acute renal [kidney] failure."

Now Yan has discovered the mechanism behind these problems: orlistat inhibits the enzyme carboxylesterase-2, which plays a major detoxifying role in the kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract. Even low levels of orlistat can cause severe and irreversible toxicity to internal organs, Yan found. "When the activity of this enzyme drop[s] in those organs, toxicity increases or the efficacy of some drugs are altered," he said.

Just as troubling, the enzyme blocked by orlistat also plays an important role in helping the body metabolize a wide variety of drugs, from aspirin to several important cancer drugs. "Alli-based interactions can be key factors in the efficacy of medicines," Yan said. Yan found that when cancer cells were exposed to various cancer drugs along with orlistat, they multiplied more prolifically than when exposed to the cancer drugs alone. "This study shows that orlistat profoundly alters the therapeutic potential of the anti-cancer drugs," Yan said. "In the case of the anti-cancer drugs, it weakens their effectiveness." Although interfering with aspirin may seem like a more mild effect, that can also have serious consequences. "Aspirin is used to treat blood clots," Yan said. "Orlistat would increase the therapeutic potential of aspirin, which may increase the tendency of bleeding."

Natural health editor-researcher Mike Adams (naturalnews) offers his opinion of Alli in a featured article "Miracle" weight loss drug Alli delivers more than you bargained for-diapers optional):

When it comes to weight loss, consumers are looking for a magic bullet - a miracle pill that eliminates the responsibility of having to actually make adult decisions about their own health. GlaxoSmithKline has delivered the pot-of-weight-loss-gold at the end of the rainbow in the form of an over-the-counter drug called, "Alli." While Alli will no doubt be a huge commercial success, it will prove to be an utter weight loss failure. Even in clinical trials, the drug only produced a few pounds of weight loss per year. You could lose more by walking five minutes a day, or drinking half a can of soda less than what you do now. As a serious weight loss aid, Alli falls short. Very short. I'm also concerned about the fact that the drug interferes with the absorption of essential fatty acids. Given that most overweight people are already extremely deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and other healthy oils, this Alli drug is likely to put them in an even worse state of deficiency.

Speaking of shorts, Adams continues, "Alli has some very entertaining side effects. The drug can cause explosive oily stools to involuntarily eject from your bowels. While that may sound like fun if you're at a frat party, it's certainly not an enjoyable experience when commuting, driving, or hanging out at the office. Dirtying your britches is bound to make the gossip rounds in mere minutes, earning you new nicknames and a repulsive, date-spoiling reputation that will be difficult to overcome. The manufacturer of Alli actually recommends that consumers "carry an extra pair of pants" with them at all times, just in case the side effects kick in. Why not just wear diapers?"

Another health concern is that Orlistat, for the past 10 years, had been shown to cause pre-cancerous lesions of the colon. From an article featured on the website, Doctors Outraged-FDA Ignored Cancer Risk When Approving Alli 7/07:

In April of 2006, a group of doctors with Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to ban Orlistat and deny OTC status to the lower dosage version Alli, offering testimony that Orlistat raises the risk of both colon cancer and gallstones. Public Citizen cited unpublished studies showing that:
 Orlistat increases the precursor markers to colon cancer by 60 percent in rats.
When eating a high fat diet and taking Orlistat, the cancer risk increased 2.4 fold.
Fat soluble vitamin E depletion, due to Orlistat's fat blocking action, raises the risk of colon cancer even further.
Recorded adverse reactions to Orlistat include: 39 cases of increased abnormal blood thinning; several cases of bleeding episodes; 10 hospitalizations, four with life threatening reactions, and one death.
Dangerous thinning of the blood can occur in people taking drugs like Warfarin (an anti-coagulant), or who suffer from vitamin K deficiency.

In addition, the FDA itself found 37 cases of gallstones in patients of all ages, between 1999 and 2006, prior to releasing Alli for over-the-counter sale.

The safety analysis from the Public Citizen's Health Research Group is that Alli "has marginal weight loss benefits, common and bothersome G-I tract reactions, significant decrease in absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and problematic use in the millions of people using Warfarin or Cyclosporine." The FDA denied Public Citizen's petition on the same day they approved Alli as an OTC.

Healthy, Natural Alternative To Alli For Effective Weight Loss
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