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Twenty-First Century Nutrition

Presents question and answer about nutritional medicine. Views regarding diet drugs, Redux; Uses of diet drugs; The amino acid tyrosine; Herbs added to amino acid tyrosine.

This month we debut a new column by Richard Firshein, D.O., a physicianspecializing in nutritional medicine. His guiding belief: mental and physian health are intimaly interwoven. Health, As he sees it, is resilience of mind and body; the ability to feel the flow of joy and energy. Natural treatments can actually recalibrate, balance, and strengthen us. Dr. Firshein is Medical Director of the Paul Sorvino Asthma Foundation, and author of Reversing Asthma (Warner Books). He successfully reversed his own nearly-fatal asthma through an entirely natural approach. He will answer several letters in each issue.

Q: I'm 20 pounds overweight, and nothing seems to slim me down except starvation. I've heard about the new wonder diet drug, Redux, but I'd rather try a natural approach first. Any suggestions?

A: Diet drugs are in vogue again. Three months after the introduction of Redux, doctors were writing 85,000 prescriptions a week, the fastest drug launch in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. Diet drugs can help treat obesity, but side effects can be harmful, and I suggest a natural approach first.

I offer overweight patients a combination of nutrients that boost metabolism and cut appetite--although they work a little more slowly than most drugs.

The amino acid tyrosine is my first weapon in a natural weight-loss arsenal, because it is a building block for thyroid hormone and norepinephrine, a brain neurotransmitter. Thyroid hormone helps metabolize fat, and norepinephrine increases energy and helps boost mood.

I add herbs like korean ginseng, which enhances sugar metabolism; kelp, a sea plant that nourishes the thryoid gland; chromium, a mineral that helps balance blood sugar levels; garcinia cambogia, an Indian herb that decreases the body's absorption of fat, and finally gymnema sylvestre, another Indian herb with the nickname "the sugar destroyer"--it helps increase sugar metabolism, so that less sugar turns to fat. Just as important is a diet low in sugar and saturated fat, and regular exercise.

PHOTO (COLOR): Sea kelp helps boost your metabolism.