Obesity is one of the greatest health problems affecting our society, and the selling of weight-loss products including books, tapes, and special supplements is one of the fastest-growing industries in America.
Obviously, the solution for those of us who are overweight or even obese is to lose weight. However, weight loss doesn’t take place just by cutting calories or dietary fat reduction. It’s more complex than that. Whether someone is slim or heavy is influenced by many factors including genetics, endocrinology, and neurology, as well as childhood nutritional patterns. Walk down any supermarket aisle, and you will be confronted with seemingly unlimited choices of processed, pre-packaged foods of every type imaginable, many with the words “natural” on the label. No matter how these foods are labeled, they often have two things in common: they are high in fat and low in fiber. These two factors alone are the cause of much of the obesity in America. One of the great benefits of an herbal-based nutrition program is that it is low in fat and high in fiber. My own program includes some herbs that serve as appetite suppressants and others that inhibit the accumulation of fat.
A whopping 65 percent of Americans start new diets at least once a year. Study after study shows that Americans are the fattest people on the planet, and getting fatter still. There are more than twenty-eight diets on public record, and yet, despite our apparent mental obsession with dieting, we display no corresponding obsession with proper dietary habits. As a result, obesity may be the greatest single health risk we face as a nation today.
What is obesity? When a person takes in more calories than he or she uses, the excess calories are stored as fat. Fat, or adipose cells, have the ability to expand or contract based on how a specific body uses energy. Most people usually define their degree of obesity by stepping on a scale or by measuring the thickness of a fold of skin around the triceps, shoulder blades, or hips.
But you may be overweight even though standard heightweight charts tell you that you are within the “normal” range. And as you age, the way your body holds fat will change, sometimes with drastic results. For example, a man who weighed 150 pounds for twenty years may not have been overweight twenty years ago, but he could be overweight today if his weight has settled around his midsection.
As a rule of thumb, if you are carrying 25 percent or more of your body weight in fat, then you are obese. Here is a quick method for determining whether you are in a “safe” weight range: if you are an adult male, your chest should be at least 5 inches larger than your waist. If you are an adult female, your chest should be 10 inches larger than your waist.
For some obese people, going on a long-term, low-calorie diet may result in very limited weight loss. The reason is that their metabolic rate may drop to “protect” them from starvation. As anyone loses weight, their body requires fewer calories. To continue losing weight at the same pace, therefore, a person must lower their caloric intake. “For example, a moderately active female weighing 135 pounds can lose about a pound a week on a fifteen hundred calorie diet. Once down to 124 pounds, however, she must consume no more than twelve hundred calories a day to maintain this rate of loss,” (Dartnell Corporation). The sanest approach to losing weight is to use a nutritionally balanced, healthy, herbal-based weight-loss program. I say healthy because there are many controversial herbal formulas on the market that derive their effectiveness from overstimulating the central nervous system. Some of the most commonly used herbal weight-loss products are effective because of the stimulating effects they have on mental and physical functions. Many of these herbal products contain stimulants such as caffeine or ephedrine. Most are promoted as “natural” alternatives to the controversial prescription drug combination commonly known as“fen-phen.”
The anti-obesity prescription drugs dexfenfluramine (brand name Redux) and fenfluramine (brand name Pondimin), were withdrawn from the marketplace because of consumer complaints concerning their safety.
The key ingredients of most herbal fen-phen products areephedra (found in the herb ma huang) and caffeine.
Ephedra is a powerful stimulant and thermogenic compound (a compound that helps the body burn brown adipose tissue) with the potential to affect the nervous system and heart. When used properly, they are generally safe, but unfortunately many people, desperate to lose weight, overuse them, which can lead to health problems including high blood pressure, heart rate irregularities, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, headaches, seizures, heart attacks, and strokes.