With a steady diet of processed foods and super-sized meals, Americans have been fighting their own “battle of the bulge” for decades. Though physicians typically agree that sensible eating habits combined with regular exercise can safely shave inches off the waistline, most people are looking for a magic bullet such as Fen Phen to melt off the pounds.
Unfortunately, as is the case with most quick and easy diet solutions, Fen Phen comes with a price tag that includes potential heart valve problems and Xerostomia, a condition more commonly known as “cotton mouth.”
Fenfluramine Ushers in the 1990’s Diet Craze
In Fen Phen Nation, Kate Cohen wrote about the origins of this popular diet drug, whose roots can be traced to an early version of the drug Fenfluramine, which was marketed in the United States as “Pondimin.” Though this drug created a feeling of fullness by releasing extra serotonin into the body, Pondimin’s negative side effects included mood swings and drowsiness.
The excess serotonin created by Pondimin did not escape the notice of FDA drug reviewer Dr. Leo Lutwak, who is quoted in Cohen’s article as saying, “To this day, I remain concerned about the neuropsychiatric side effects – mood changes, memory loss and so on.”
Following the Feb Phen Trail
Cohen followed the Fen Phen trail to the University of Rochester, where pharmacologist Michael Weintraub combined Fenfluramine with a stimulant called phentermine in the 1980’s. This combination helped reduce Pondimin’s side effects as well as the waistlines of test subjects. In the early 1990’s, doctors began prescribing the Fenfluramine-phentermine mixture, more popularly known as Fen Phen, to patients suffering from chronic obesity.
The Dark Side of Fen Phen
Cohen also refers to a 1997 article by Dr. Heidi Connelly in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” which outlined the link between Fenfluramine-phentermine and heart valve abnormalities. On September 15, 1997, Pondimin was taken off shelves, and American Home Products, the company marketing the drug in the U.S., set up a trust fund for Fen-Phen users.
The Fen-Phen/Xerostomia Link
According to the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, normal saliva production can be affected by a number of drugs, including Fenfluramine. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) also reported that dental patients receiving anti-depressant therapy run the risk of developing conditions such as cotton mouth.
Since Xerostomia can have a long-term effect on digestion and the condition of the teeth, it’s always advisable to consult with a physician before trying any type of diet supplements, especially ones that cause cotton mouth.