Front Page

Previous Story

Next Story

NIH Record

News Briefs

Task Force Weighs in on Weight-Loss Drugs

Prescribed weight-loss drugs, when combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, may help some obese individuals lose weight and maintain that weight loss for at least 1 year. More research, however, is needed to determine the long-term safety and effectiveness of these medications, according to a review of the medical literature by the national task force on the prevention and treatment of obesity. The review of research from 1966 through 1996 was published in the Dec. 18 Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the review, obese patients using either single-drug or combination therapy lost, on average, from 5 to 22 pounds more than patients receiving placebo or nondrug treatments. Patients receiving drugs were significantly more likely to lose 10 percent or more of their initial body weight, enough to improve health; however, most did not approach an "ideal" body weight. Most of the weight loss occurred during the first 6 months of treatment. Patients taking the drugs for more than 6 months either maintained their weight loss or experienced a slight increase. Once the weight-loss drugs were stopped, patients regained lost weight.

"There's little justification for the short-term use of weight-loss drugs, because most patients regain lost weight when they stop taking the medications. This does not mean that these drugs are ineffective, but that obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment," says primary author Dr. Susan Yanovski, director of the Obesity and Eating Disorders Program, NIDDK, and executive director of the task force.

International Study Links Fly-like Gene to
Tooth Development, Glaucoma

What do flies and humans have in common other than a penchant for picnics? The answer is in the genes. Although separated by eons of evolution, the two species share certain genes that are strikingly similar in structure and are critical to the development of both life forms.

In an international study supported primarily by NIDR, scientists at the University of Iowa have identified one such gene as the cause of Rieger syndrome, a rare disorder that leaves its mark on many parts of the body. Affected individuals have facial bone abnormalities, small or missing teeth, and serious eye disorders that lead to glaucoma in 50 percent of the cases. There can also be involvement of the pituitary gland and other organs. This is the first finding of a gene that results in glaucoma in a high proportion of affected patients. The findings were reported in the December issue of Nature Genetics.

Although Rieger syndrome is a rare disorder in which glaucoma strikes in childhood, finding the responsible gene gives scientists a tool to study the causes of the more common forms of adult glaucoma. It is also the first gene of its kind to be associated with the failure of tooth development.

NIDR Studies Dental Amalgams in Kids

NIDR will award more than $9 million in grants over the next 5 years to fund two clinical trials examining the health effects of dental amalgams in children. The studies aim to document whether or not there are adverse health effects attributable to mercury-containing dental amalgams.

Approximately 100 million people in the United States have amalgam fillings. Little is known about the health effects of low-level exposure to mercury because of the complexity of measuring exposure from multiple sources and assessing multiple potential effects.

Mercury is used in numerous industries, is found in foods, and is used to form various alloys, including dental amalgam. Dental amalgam, which is approximately 50 percent mercury, is the standard material used worldwide in restorations for the treatment of dental caries.

Some studies have suggested that mercury-containing dental amalgams may be the cause of various diseases ranging from mild skin conditions to debilitating neuromuscular diseases.

Up to Top