Don't believe what you read about 'breakthrough' diets

People's Pharmacy

November 22, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to The Sun

Q. I am an average American male. My weight is just right for a 6-foot man. The problem is that I am only 5 feet 9.

I control my weight pretty well with sensible eating and exercise but would like to lose the 15 extra pounds I've had most of my life. I have read of "breakthroughs" that guarantee the loss of a pound a day without exercise or diet. You just take the magic pills or combination of herbs and vitamins.

Is there any truth to these claims? It seems to me if they are not false, they are certainly misleading. How do the companies get away with such ads?

A. For products composed of herbs and vitamins, the rules governing labeling and advertising are lax and poorly enforced. We assure you, there are no breakthroughs that will help you shed a pound a day without exercise or diet.

Q. My sister takes Synthroid, and I have long suspected that my thyroid does not work well either. I feel fatigued much of the time, chill easily and have troubles with dry skin, constipation and depression. Over the years I have gained 17 pounds despite keeping to 1,400 calories a day.

My doctor has repeatedly told me that my thyroid is fine, and doesn't seem concerned that I feel bad. He has urged me to take Premarin, but I hate taking pills. I've increased the amount of soy in my diet, which has relieved my hot flashes.

I had my thyroid tested at a health fair at the mall. When the results came, I found that my thyroid hormone levels aren't normal. I'm not sure how to interpret them, though. What are the consequences of not treating a thyroid condition? Would kelp solve my problem?

A. Failing to treat an under-active thyroid could result in elevated cholesterol and heart problems, not to mention depression, weight gain and many of the symptoms you have described. In an older person, untreated hypothyroidism could be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease.

Kelp is sometimes suggested as a natural remedy, but it is very tricky to use. Seaweed is rich in iodine, and too much can throw the thyroid gland out of kilter and interfere with thyroid tests. A more conventional treatment such as Synthroid or desiccated thyroid is preferable.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

King Features Syndicate

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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