Health Buzz: FDA Advisors Back Weight-Loss Drug

Plus, high-protein diets for weight loss, and 7 stick-to-your-diet tricks you’ve never heard of.


Federal Panel Endorses Weight-Loss Drug Qnexa

The controversial weight-loss drug Qnexa is one step closer to gaining approval as the first new prescription obesity medication in 13 years. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 20 to 2 Wednesday to recommend its approval, despite rejecting the drug two years ago in light of safety concerns. The panel of medical experts argued that the weight-loss benefits of Vivus Inc's Qnexa outweigh potential heart risks and birth defects associated with the drug, USA TODAY reports. In a clinical trial of 4,323 obese adults, Qnexa patients lost an average of 10 percent of their total body weight during the first year of use. However, the researchers also found that Qnexa slightly boosted heart rate, which can heighten the risk of heart attack and stroke. And they noticed an increased risk of birth defects in the babies of women who became pregnant while taking the drug. Panelists recommended that Vivus further study the drug's heart effects, and supported the company's plan to forbid pregnant women from using it. The FDA will issue a final ruling later this year, but typically follows the recommendations of its advisory committees. "Everyone around the room knows obesity and its substantial health risks," panel member Susan Yanovski, director of the obesity and eating disorders program at the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters. "I would say not treating obesity is not risk neutral. We have few treatments for obesity for those who don't respond to lifestyle treatments."

  • Best Weight-Loss Diets
  • 6 Diets With Harsh Rules
  • High-Protein Diets for Weight Loss: Are They Healthy?

    "High-protein diet"—burgers, steaks, chops, and more burgers, steaks, and chops. Right? Wrong. Few diets, even those like Atkins that portray themselves as a carnivore's delight, dish out more than about a quarter of their daily calories from protein. The federal view classifies diets as high-protein if the protein content exceeds 35 percent.

    But even a quarter is high. Most Americans get only about 15 percent of their calories from protein, says nutritionist Teresa Fung of Simmons College in Boston, a member of the U.S. News Best Diets expert panel. That's roughly one 3-ounce burger a day. So studies of "high-protein" diets generally take aim at those at the "higher end of the recommended range" of 10 to 35 percent, says Kathie Beals, another panelist and an associate professor in the division of nutrition at the University of Utah.

    These higher-protein diets, as they should be called, are gaining popularity among those who want to both drop pounds and build muscle. The protein in these plans typically comes from meat, although soy, peanuts, whey, and other plant-based protein often appear on the menu. Proponents say such diets boost metabolism, promoting weight loss while making dieters feel full. [Read more: High-Protein Diets for Weight Loss: Are They Healthy?]

    • Is a Low-Fat Diet Right for You?
    • Low-Carb Diet: Will It Work for You?
    • 7 Stick-to-Your-Diet Tricks You've Never Heard of for 2012

      Another year, another resolution. The goal may be the same, but the outcome doesn't have to be. You can succeed in 2012. No more falling off the weight-loss wagon a couple of months in, or sheepishly returning the skinny jeans you bought with such hope. These 7 easy and unconventional tricks can help you stay on track this time around:

      Picture yourself. Find a photo of yourself you either love or hate, whichever hits you harder. Carry it around—and whip it out and stare at it whenever temptation strikes. Seeing yourself at your thinnest or heftiest—maybe even snapshots of both—might stiffen your resolve when you pass Dunkin' Donuts or watch The Office with potato-chip-addicts, says registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. Need a stronger reminder? Magnet the visuals to your refrigerator, too, she says.

      Bet on it. "Diet betting" is catching on among friends, relatives, and coworkers. The idea is to place real bets on who can lose the most weight over a specified period, tracked by weekly weigh-ins. A study published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people given financial incentives—for this study it was a chance to earn about $200—were more successful at weight loss than those without money on the line. Can't find willing competition? Sites like require dieters to hand over their credit card information and sign contracts pledging to meet certain goals. If they fall short, say by failing to lose the weight they vowed to, it'll cost them—their credit card will be charged anything from a couple of dollars to $200 per week, depending on the terms they agreed to, with the money donated to a designated person or charity. [Read more: 7 Stick-to-Your-Diet Tricks You've Never Heard of for 2012.]