Category Archives: diet

Novartis Blood Pressure Medication Runs into Trouble


Novartis Blood Pressure Medication Runs into Trouble
by Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor, Metabolism.com

In 2007 a new type of blood pressure lowering medication was brought to market by Novartis Pharmaceutical Company. This medication by the brand name Tekturna (aliskiran) works by blocking hormones that make up a circuit from the kidney to the blood vessels know as the RAAS system. This mechanism is distinct from all other blood pressure lowering medications available. By working via a completely novel pathway to lower blood pressure doctors were given another potent weapon in the war on high blood pressure. A second medication, Valturna, which combines an established blood pressure medication with Tekturna, was released by Novartis to the public in 2009. These drugs have been extremely popular due to their effectiveness and apparent freedom from serious side effects.
A warning about this class of drug was issued by Novartis, 2 weeks ago when it was forced to end the Altitude drug study due to apparent unforeseen complications in patients using Tekturna and Valturna. The study found a small but significant increase in stroke in diabetics with renal disease who were using these drugs. Although the group of patients in the Altitude study are up to 12 times more likely to develop stroke or heart attack under normal circumstances, Novartis had no choice but to end the study and issue a warning to the health care community about limiting the use of these drugs.

In my own practice I have found Tekturna and Valturna to be extremely effective and well tolerated. A survey of my colleagues revealed the same findings. Diabetes and high blood pressure very commonly occur together and national guidelines stress the need for excellent blood pressure control for diabetics to help prevent heart, kidney and eye complications of this disease. For doctors treating diabetics who recognize these patients as particularly high risk, having to significantly cut back or eliminate the use of Tekturna and Valturna is creating major concerns. Within the past week I have had to counsel numerous individuals about these issues and the solution is far from easy. For instance, one man with diabetes and early kidney disease and heart disease, with borderline high blood pressure despite using 4 different types of blood pressure medication including Tekturna has to decide with me, which is the greatest risk, going off the medication resulting in a rise in his blood pressure or continuing a drug which may pose a risk of its own.

These discussions are going on in doctor’s offices throughout the country with no good solution in sight. The only certainty is a flood of ads by lawyers which begin, “Have you ever been on Tekturna or Valturna….”.

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SweetiePie Doesn’t Need a Shrink to Quit Smoking


Many members here at metabolism.com have shared their thoughts and experience on ways to stop smoking. There have been many who feel defeated because they can’t beat the weight gain that accompanies their efforts. SweetiePie has a clear message about how not to beat yourself up while achieving the goal of a smoke free (and healthier) life.

Here’s what SweetiePie has to say;

Hello:

55 Year old female here, 200 lbs, hypothyroid smoke free for 6 months. Feeling great about being smoke free and this time its permanent and for real.

I have quit smoking and relapsed so many times in my life. And dieting, on again and off again for 40 years. Pfffft…..This time what prompted me to go to the doctor and quit was that my heart feels heavy and hurts sometimes. Not angina yet, but scary and depressing. I’m fine, it turns out, but I definitely needed to quit smoking and still need to exercise more and lose weight . I am no expert in the weight loss department, having had limited success with that over the years. I can see from this interesting thread that I am not as weight conscious as most of you, but I still thought I’d share what my doctors told me because it may help and inspire you the way it did to me: When I tried to bring up the weight gain and the overweight with doctors heres what they said: CARDIOLOGIST told me I’d have to be about 100 lbs over my ideal weight of 145 for the weight to be as stressful and damaging on my heart and cardiovascular as SMOKING, GP #1 told me the key was, instead of focusing on an ideal weight and size, was to focus on preventing DIABETES through NONSMOKING, AND EXERCISE just as important as wholesome diet, and GP #2 (I moved and needed a new doctor for my thyroid perscription) told me, after my bloodwork tested all ok, “why don’t you just forget about losing weight for a little while and focus on quitting SMOKING? Well, I took all of that advice, and this time, it worked! I’ve really kicked the smoking habit and finally found freedom from that deadly addiction. The “permission” from doctors to stop beating myself up about my weight freed me up mentally to do what I needed to do (giving myself plenty of rewards, including food treats and being lazy treats!) in order to become smoke free and never going back! I am ready now to step up to exercise and weight loss this year with the same strategy: Increased exercise first, food modification instead of deprivation. The reason for my post is to say stick with it but your QUIT is SO IMPORTANT – don’t ever let your desire to be thinner or to get back down to an ideal outweigh your resolve to stay SMOKE FREE. SMOKING is the singlemost damaging behavior -don’t lose sight of that! Never take another puff! Oh, btw I gained about 5% while quitting and my first goal is to go back down 5%.

What’s Inside My Ebook, Metabolism.com?


My ebook Metabolism.com is now available; I think you will find it a great resource for many of the common problems members have asked me about over the past 15 years. Buy it now and use it for years to come. Don’t forget to check out the Weight Loss and Weight Gain Programs included for free!

Chapter 1: What Is Metabolism? 9

Turning Food into Energy 10
The Importance of Hormones 11
Role of Metabolism in Weight Loss or Gain 14
Is My Metabolism Healthy? 16

Chapter 2: What Makes Your Metabolism Fast or Slow? 17

The Role of the Thyroid 22

Chapter 3: How to Increase or Decrease Metabolism 25

Problems with Losing Weight 25
Problems with Gaining Weight 34
A Pleasurable Exercise Routine is a Must 39

Chapter 4: Fact vs. Fiction—Smoking and Weight Loss 41

Chapter 5: Thyroid Treatment 47

How Are T3 and T4 Regulated? 48
Types of Thyroid Diseases 49
Hyper- and Hypothyroidism 49
Thyroid Nodules 51
Is Your Thyroid Nodule Hot? 53
Thyroid Treatments 54
Using Thyroid Function Tests To Diagnose Disease 56
Hyperthyroidism Treatments 57
Hypothyroidism Treatments 58
T3 Plus T4 Combination Therapy 59
How to Talk to Your Endocrinologist 66
The Recent Shortage of Armour Thyroid 67

Chapter 6: Diabetes Treatment 73

The Bad News—Major Stumbles in the Treatment of Diabetes 74
The Call for Tight Glycemic Control 74
2010 Diabetes Treatment Guidelines Lack Credibility 76
Setbacks in Diabetes Drug Development 81
The Failure of Inhaled Insulin 86
Dangerous Commercial Weight Loss Programs 87
Perhaps the Biggest Stumble of Th em All 89
The Good News—What Really Works 90
Diet and Exercise 90
Weight Loss Surgery 94
Incretins 95

Chapter 7: Hormone Treatments 99

Hormone Replacement Therapy—Estrogen 101
Heart Health 101
Breast Cancer 103
Benefits of Estrogen: Brain Function and Blood Pressure 104
Testosterone Replacement for Men 106
Testosterone Replacement Options 107
Benefits of Testosterone Replacement 108
Potential Risks 109
Human Growth Hormone in Adults 111
Diagnosing Growth Hormone Deficiency 113
Benefits of Growth Hormone Supplementation 113
Adrenal Fatigue: Fact or Fiction? 115

Conclusion 117

The Birth Of Metabolism.com 119
My Path Into Endocrinology 121
Recent Contributors On Metabolism.com 125

Appendix 1: Personal Nutrition Profile 127
Appendix 2: Ultimate Weight Gain Program 145
Appendix 3: Food Journal 165

Relevant Studies

HCG is a Hairy Hormone



By Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor, Metabolism.com
In the first article in this series, The HCG-Cancer Connection, I explained how HCG is made by some types of cancer and can serve as a marker for cancer activity. Now I want to explore another effect of HCG, the stimulation of male hormone (testosterone) production.
Just to review, there is no evidence that HCG will cause cancer although conceivably certain cancer responsive tumors may grow faster due to its effect to increase estrogen and testosterone. Every woman who has had a normal pregnancy has been exposed to high HCG levels for many months so if it did cause cancer that effect would be very obvious.
What concerns me is how HCG can influence the normal ovary and its hormone metabolism. HCG is a promiscuous hormone. It will hook up with different hormone “receptors” and masquerade as these other hormones. In the previous article I explained how at very high levels HCG can stimulate the thyroid to make thyroid hormone resulting in hyperthyroidism. Another hormone effect of HCG is to mimic LH (leutinizing hormone) which turns on the production of the sex hormones by the testicle in men and ovary in woman. Surprisingly the normal ovary makes testosterone which it then converts to estrogen. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) from the pituitary helps the ovary change testosterone to estrogen. What happens when the ovary gets a lot of LH but not FSH? This is the situation when a woman gets HCG. Testosterone levels will rise more than estrogen levels. Research shows that after a single HCG injection a rise of 20% in testosterone levels occurs in normal women, confirming this theory. During pregnancy with HCG pumping in the blood from the placenta, testosterone levels can double, resulting in acne, oily skin and (in some women) an increase in sex drive. The situation would be far worse for a pregnant woman if the placenta wasn’t also pumping out 100 times the normal amount of estrogen to counteract all the male hormones.
So why should women care if HCG makes their testosterone levels go up? Acne, oily skin and horniness are one thing but there are other effects which might be less acceptable. Testosterone is a mischievous hormone. While it causes hair growth where you don’t want it, it causes hair loss in places you want to keep it. Testosterone stimulates hair growth on the face, chest, back and abdomen. At the same time it causes hair loss from the scalp particularly at the temples and crown. This is referred to as male pattern baldness. Other effects of testosterone in women are the growth of the clitoris, known as clitoromegaly. A clitoris the size of a man’s thumb has been described in a woman due to excess testosterone exposure. Generally this degree of clitoromegaly is seen only in more extreme cases. So you may want to think twice before starting an HCG diet unless looking like Bruce Willis is your thing.
In the final installment on the hazards of HCG I will focus on other possible nasty hormone effects of HCG such as fibroids, infertility and bulging muscles.

Bariatric Surgery Benefits Last for Years


One of the biggest problems with weight loss programs and diets is that even if they work the weight tends to come back on within a year or two. A recent study from the University of Utah of people who underwent bariatric surgery shows that not only do they lose weight quickly, after 6 years they continue to maintain their lower weight. After undergoing bariatric surgery the average weight drop was 35% of the original weight and after 6 years weight loss was still a very encouraging 28%. 75% of diabetics who had bariatric surgery were able to go off their diabetic medications, while improvements were generally seen in cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Although this study shows a very high success rate, in the real world medical practice I have seen many people who are able to eat their way out of weight loss success after bariatric surgery. Eating small amounts of very high calorie food is still possible and unfortunately is not all that uncommon. Not to say that bariatric surgery is not helpful, because when it works the results can be spectacular, but as always the degree of motivation of the patient is crucial to success.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, metabolism.com

Diabetes Medications, One Old and One New, Run into Trouble


A potential new treatment for type 2 diabetes, dapagliflozin, recently failed to gain approval from the FDA. What makes this rejection noteworthy is that the new medication works by a completely new mechanism causing the kidney to excrete sugar from the blood into the urine. Reasons for the rejection were the increased risk of bladde and breast cancer in those taking the medication, increased urine and genital infections and possible liver toxicity. That list of problems seems pretty convincing to me. This is unfortunate because the drug appears to cause weight loss and does not cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). However, a drug that works by “poisoning” the kidney so that it dumps sugar into the urine strikes me as a drug that is going to cause a lot of other problems.

The other established diabetes medication generating new warnings is Actos (pioglitazone). I have written a number of articles on the sister drug Avandia, defending its usefulness despite possible cardiovascular risks, but the cancer warning for Actos is a new angle on this class of drugs (thiazolidinediones). Actos has been withdrawn in France due to concerns that it may cause bladder cancer but no such action has been taken in the U.S. The FDA this month did issue a warning that individuals with bladder cancer or at risk for bladder cancer, should be advised not to use Actos. If Actos is hit hard by these actions this whole class of diabetes drugs will have been eliminated from use.
A sure sign of trouble for Actos is that a “google search” for Actos is now showing lawyer websites as the first 5 citations.

Being sick is dangerous. Treating illness also has dangers. I am concerned that our cultural zeal for uncovering scandals and for pursuing litigation will lead us to sterile treatment options and doctors who are unwilling to risk helping.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor in Chief, metabolism.com