This is Your Brain on (Diet) Drugs

Fed up with dieting? Thinking of trying pills instead? Read this first.

By Annie Murphy Paul, published on November 1, 1997 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

The diet drug combination "fen-phen" was withdrawn by its
manufacturers in September 1997 after reports of damage to some users'
heart valves. The success many dieters had with fen-phen, however,
followed from its effects not on the heart, but on the head, as Michael
Fumento explains in his book The Fat of the Land (Viking). He notes that
one of the drugs, fenfluramine, appears to work by making more serotonin
available in the brain, inducing dieters to feel full. The second drug,
phentermine, is a mild stimulant that boosts the brain chemical
norepinephrine, suppressing appetite. But Fumento, a medical journalist,
won't miss fen-phen now that it's gone. Although he admits that he once
lost weight on fen-phen himself, the rest of his book is devoted to the
proposition that "there will be no quick fixes" for the "obesity
epidemic." His prescription for weight loss? Sensible eating and regular