January 15, 2008
The headline reads:
"Too Much Sugar-Free Gum Linked to Severe Weight Loss"
With so many advertisements for quick and easy weight loss,
some might see this as yet another way to have the pounds
fall off without effort. For those who read on, they might
notice the means by which the weight is lost.
"Chewing too much sugar-free gum containing the artificial
sweetener sorbitol can cause diarrhea leading to
potentially dangerous weight loss, German physicians
report. ... Both were found to be consuming a lot of
sorbitol, primarily from chewing gum, said Dr. Herbert
Lochs, professor of internal medicine at Humboldt
University in Berlin, and one author of the report. The
answer solved the mystery, since heavy consumption of
sorbitol has long been associated with a risk of diarrhea,
Lochs said. 'There have been case reports earlier, as far
back as the 1980s,' he said. 'These were people who did not
have malabsorbtion and malnutrition.' "
"Malabsorption is difficulty in the digestion or absorption
of nutrients from food. Malabsorption can result from a
wide range of diseases. Typically, malabsorption can be the
failure to absorb specific sugars, fats, proteins, or
vitamins. It can also be a general malabsorption of food.
Diarrhea, bloating or cramping, failure to thrive, frequent
bulky stools, muscle wasting, and a distended stomach may
"Malnutrition is the condition that occurs when a person's
body is not getting enough nutrients. The condition may
result from an inadequate or unbalanced diet, digestive
difficulties, absorption problems, or other medical
conditions. Malnutrition can occur because of the lack of a
single vitamin in the diet, or it can be because a person
isn't getting enough food. Starvation is a form of
malnutrition. Malnutrition also occurs when adequate
nutrients are consumed in the diet, but one or more
nutrients are not digested or absorbed properly.
Malnutrition may be mild enough to show no symptoms.
However, in some cases it may be so severe that the damage
done is irreversible, even though the individual survives."
Many don't think of malnutrition as something that can
affect people who are eating enough food. It is not just a
matter of eating enough food; it is also a matter of the
body being able to absorb and use the nutrients that are
Products that unintentionally (or intentionally) eliminate
from the body the food that is eaten before it can be
absorbed can cause weight loss, but they do it in a way
that can cause severe health problems, and even death.
"A cup of hot herbal tea may feel soothing to the soul, but
instead of soothing the body, some herbal teas can make you
sick. This is especially true with so-called dieter's teas,
herbal teas containing senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other
plant-derived laxatives that, when consumed in excessive
amounts, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach
cramps, chronic constipation, fainting, and perhaps death.
In recent years, FDA has received 'adverse event' reports,
including the deaths of four young women, in which dieter's
teas may have been a contributing factor. As a result, FDA
is advising consumers to follow package directions
carefully when using dieter's teas and other dietary
supplements containing senna, aloe, and other stimulant
laxatives. Consumers should seek medical attention for
persistent diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and other bowel
problems to prevent more serious complications."
"FDA is advising consumers to follow package directions
When reading those packages, it can be helpful to know what
to look for, what works, what doesn't work, and what could
potentially be dangerous.
"It's the latest weight-loss pill or herbal supplement that
has people talking and you wondering whether it really
works. Certainly the appeal of losing weight quickly is
hard to pass up. But do these pills and products lighten
anything but your wallet? And are they a safe option for
weight loss? Here's a look at some over-the-counter
weight-loss pills and what they will and won't do for you.
... A number of weight-loss pills are available at your
local drugstore, supermarket or health food store. Even
more options are available online. Most haven't been proved
safe and effective, and some are downright dangerous. ..."
(The above site provides information about Bitter orange,
Chitosan, Chromium, Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), Country
mallow (heartleaf), Ephedra, Green tea extract, Guar gum,
and Hoodia, including the claims made about each product
and what people need to know about it before taking it.)
Questions of the Week:
When taking anything that might cause weight loss, what do
you need to know about the ingredients in the product? How
does knowing how a product claims to promote weight loss
help you know about how safe it may or may not be? How can
you and your peers learn about how the various ingredients
work -- and what the potential side effects and risks may
be -- before taking a product that can cause weight loss?
What do you think would be the best way to educate your
peers about the potential health problems that can be
caused by these products that can sound so appealing?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum