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Coffee-an appetite depressant.

The Food and Drug Administration recently promulgated an order, banning over 100 chemicals from diet medications on the basis that they were either "not safe or effective". Most of these had little significance in diet pills because they were minor components, manufacturing aids such as fillers, lubricants, disintegrates, etc. One eye opener was prohibiting caffeine in any product sold as a reducing medication.

Although the F.D.A. has been widely criticized over the years for many of its actions, I have the utmost respect for its ability and success in maintaining our food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics at probably the highest quality in the world. They may have made errors in judgement at times, and they may have delayed progress in some areas by their extreme caution. In many cases, this has been justified and time has demonstrated the wisdom of many of their decisions. Forbidding caffeine, however, as a diet aid is rather ridiculous, since any heavy weight desiring this agent for weight control can always obtain the required amount in a cup of the brew.

Obesity is undoubtedly the most widespread problem affecting the health of Americans today. Estimates of individuals afflicted with excess poundage range from 25-35% of all residents. Aside from the esthetic drawbacks, chubbiness has been associated with serious medical problems, including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular ills, and many others.

Limiting food intake to the absolute minimum required for life needs, while burning off excess fat, is the optimum for achieving weight reduction; and once achieved, maintaining this target by a well-balanced minimum diet should solve the problem. But there are deep-rooted psychological reasons why these procedures frequently fail. Thus, dieters look to appetite suppressant medications as an easy "magic" way to their goal.

From a pharmaceutical standpoint, two different types of agents are now permitted by the F.D.A. to be marketed as appetite reducers: stimulants and anesthetics. The stimulants are largely of the amphetamine family; while the anesthetics are primarily local tissue desensitizers like benzocaine.

The amphetamines are a large family of compounds, essentially organic derivatives of ammonia. The first one discovered was adrenalin-almost a century ago. Since then, several hundred have been synthesized and intensively studied as classic examples of how variation in the organic structure affect physiological activity. Nearly all members of the group exhibit various temporary effects of increasing energy and apparent mental alertness. As stimulants, most are much more potent than caffeine but also exhibit much more serious, even debilitating side effects. On prescription, they are widely used in cases of mental depression, alcoholism, narcotic and barbiturate overdose as well as for appetite control. Without a prescription, potent ones have been sold by illegal drug peddlers on the street as "uppers". Uncontrolled use of these street "pep" pills can lead to serious mental degradation, followed by death.

The mildest of the amphetamines is a compoun with the chemical name of phenyl-propanol-amine (ppa). This is presently considered safe and effective for use by dieters without a prescription and is permitted by the F.D.A. in individual tablets containing up to 75 mgs.

When first marketed over a decade ago, products such as "Dexatrim" contained in addition to PPA, 200 mg. of caffeine for added stimulation and appetite alleviation. Subsequently, The F.D.A. decided this was not a rational combination and currently all appetite suppressants are sold without caffeine. PPA is also a component of many over-the-counter cold preparations. Here it serves as a nasal decongestant, shrinking inflamed mucus membranes so that cold sufferers may breathe easier. If PPA is banned as appetite suppressors, dieters will be able to obtain it in their cold remedies.

How amphetamines act in weight loss has no been clearly established. Some believe that as a brain stimulant, it diverts attention from food to more cerebral matters. There is evidence that they increase emptying time of the stomach, but this should increase the desire for sustenance. Appetite is psychologically dependent on memory and association. Hunger is physiologic, aroused by the body's need for food. Almost by definition, overweight individuals do not suffer from hunger.

Although caffeine is rarely described as an appetite depressant, it often reduces the urge to eat. Caffeine beverages have been frequently used, though not recommended in reducing diets. How it acts to reduce desire for food is also not clearly understood. It may be by pharmacological actions similar to that of the amphetamines--or it may be by an entirely different mechanism.

The anesthetic principle of appetite control performs at two levels; in the mouth and in the abdomen. In the mouth, Benzocaine numbs the oral tissues like the taste buds of the tongue. This blocks conduction to the brain. When food has no taste, it rapidly loses its appeal. When these tablets are swallowed whole instead of being dissolved in the mouth, they anesthetize the stomach tissue, where hunger sensations often arise. No hunger, no desire for food.

The use of caffeine as a weight adjuster is almost a self-evident fact-though it has never been advertised by manufacturers or marketers. It is common knowledge that each individual discovers as a factor of growing up. During our teens; we eat for two purposes; to supply energy expended in daily activities, and to obtain tissue-building food for growth. Suddenly we reach our maximum stature and no longer require the additional food for growth. Most people adjust by reducing their food intake to their energy output need, often increasing their energy output. A substantial minority--at least 25%--find they cannot adjust their appetite to smaller portions and are rather lethargic so energy need is not increased. Result: OBESITY.

At about the same time, they begin to be recognized as adults and switch to adult beverages like coffee instead of their childhood milk. Soon they discover they can reduce their total food consumption easier by having a cup of beverage at the beginning of the meal. They find this brain stimulant diverts their attention away from food to much more important matters like hard-rock music, prolonged telephone conversations, cosmetics, ornamentation, etc. They soon learn, by this means, they can skip occasional meals entirely, thus maintaining their desirable weight proportion and initiating a life-long love affair with the brew.

Caffeine has a wide variety of pharmacological actions on various organs and systems of the human body. Some reinforce each other, while other are contradicting, depending on context and other circumstances of usage. Its role as an appetite suppressant is more generally recognized by the public than by the medical profession. In truth, it is often excluded from reducing diets, not for physiological reasons, but often because of illogical prejudices of reducing diet authors.

I doubt whether the F.D.A. will ever permit advertising of caffeine beverages as dieting aids. Its virtue here will develop by word-of-mouth dissemination or by self discovery. In fact each generation will probably learn of the benefits of coffee, for their weight control needs, as a significant step in its introduction to maturity.
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Title Annotation:Food and Drug Administration ban on caffeine in diet pills
Author:Lee, Samuel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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