One thing is certain. We need to do something about this problem because child obesity is on the rise. A quick glance round the average playground or high street will reveal that many children are a completely different shape than children of previous generations.
According to the Child Growth Foundation, childrens’ waistlines have grown on average of 12.5 cm. and the number of obese children has expanded by over a third in the past ten years.
It is a growing problem that is fuelled by diet and lifestyle and Swiss pharmaceutical company Arena already have child obesity firmly in their sights. The company have submitted plans to launch a children’s version of the drug and aim to begin trials a year after the adult pill is released onto the UK market. Targeted at the six to 18 age groups, Belviq for children will be the first ever-slimming pill to be specifically aimed at children. Medical experts are already questioning the safety issues.
What is Belviq?
Belviq pronounced Bel Veek is as an appetite suppressant. Belviq is a brand name for the drug Lorcaserin – a chemical that affects the serotonin levels of the brain. This helps promote weight loss because activating the brain’s receptors for serotonin may help a person, eat less and feel fuller after eating smaller amounts of food. In clinical trials participants lost between 8% and 40% of body weight so it does appear to be effective.
The adult form of Belviq has yet to be released in the UK and Europe but is available by prescription in the US subject to restrictions.
The idea is that you will naturally want to eat less food without having to struggle with will power. Belviq appears to work for adults but there are serious problems with this drug and side effects that make it extremely unsuitable, especially for children in its present form.
Arena have spent years on the development of Lorcasin and have undergone a lengthy research process in order to get this drug approved in the US. They will have an equally lengthy process in order to do the same in the UK. The British drug advisory bodies and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) have yet to approve the adult version.
How Does Belviq Work?
Serotonin, known as the “brain’s happy hormone”, is a neuro transmitter that triggers feelings of happiness, well being and makes us feel full after eating. Lack of serotonin is often cited as a cause for weight gain and depression and drugs that raise serotonin levels are routinely used in the treatment of depression. Over eating, mood swings, obesity, cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, frequent headaches and unspecified muscle aches and pains may all be caused by low serotonin levels.
Belviq works by triggering the serotonin receptors that control the appetite. Scientists do not fully understand how the exact process or pathway of the chemical works or how Lorcaserin affects appetite but clinical trials have shown significant weight loss in the test groups.
Arena claim that Belviq only affects the serotonin receptors that control the appetite but can we believe this? The brain is a complicated mechanism and disrupting the natural chemical balance may cause side effects. Taking a pharmaceutical pill that affects the brain may cause an effect on mood, mental agility and mental process, especially before the brain is fully developed. For adults, it seems that Belviq has serious health concerns so why on earth would we want to give it to our children?
The Possible Side Effects of Belviq
Belviq has numerous unpleasant side effects that have been highlighted during the clinical trials. These include migraine, vertigo, tiredness, nausea, dry mouth, and constipation, and in diabetic patients low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), headache, back pain, cough, and fatigue.
An added danger of this drug is that when taken to excess it may induce hallucinations and euphoria and explains why the US Drug Enforcement Administration has proposed classifying Lorcaserin as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Prescription is stringent. Belviq is only prescribed to healthy adults with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 27 and administered under strict medical supervision.
As with many weight loss drugs now banned in most countries, there a risk that Belviq is dangerous and even addictive. It seems likely that there will be a growing market in buying Belviq because of its mind-altering euphoric and possibly hallucinatory side effects from exceeding the recommended dose.
It seems that there are serious health concerns with Belviq for adults so this drug simply does not seem safe for children.
Belviq for Children
Arena will probably have to modify Belviq before Lorcaserin is approved for children in the USA, and the drug will have to adhere to stringent testing before it goes on sale in the UK. Regulations in the EU require that a number of specific tests must be carried out on a new drug before it can be classified as being safe for children.
The company have not given any details about their new child friendly product and it seems likely that they may run into problems even marketing the adult version outside the USA. However, with the growing rise of obesity, the pressure is on to provide a quick fix solution. In America, the adult version of Belviq is the first diet drug that the FDA have approved for over 13 years so it is likely that the UK will follow this lead.
It is highly possible that once the adult version is approved in the UK and the doors open to Belviq then the company will proceed with their plans for launching the children’s’ product.
The big questions have to be why obesity is happening, and then how to deal with it. Surely we are the same people inside as our grandparents so why are so many of us such a different shape from our ancestors and how and why did our children get so fat?
There are numerous explanations.
What Causes Child Obesity?
The childhood obesity trend seems to have begun back in the early 1980s. One theory is that this was the first era when fructose corn syrup began to be added to fast food, packaged food and soft drinks. This ultra sweet syrup is much cheaper to produce than sugar and adds a lot of bulk to food but provides no extra nutritional content.
Fructose is in a lot of the foods and drinks that we buy. From fizzy soft drinks to some good quality juices, cook in sauces, ready meals and more. It is extremely fattening and some scientists have gone so far as to say addictive, leading the consumer to give into food cravings for more of this sweet stuff and over eat.
Importantly we feed it to our children because a lot of food products aimed at children contain high levels of fructose. With the move away from “home cooking” and the time constraints of full time employment, people are increasingly turning to convenience food as a solution.
Despite the advertising, many lower quality pre prepared foodstuffs are likely to contain inferior and fattening ingredients. Parents working with already stretched household budgets are buying food that is extremely fattening and of poor nutritional value.
It is not just about the food.
Today, it is probably true to say that some children are less active than in previous generations so simply do not burn off calories. The rise in computer games and social networking online even among the young has led to more children spending an increasing amount of time sat down in front of a screen. Many parents have welcomed this because of the perceived dangers of child abduction and other dangers outside in the “real world” but it is not necessarily good for their health.
Today’s children are likely to be taken to school by car and given lifts to afterschool clubs and friends houses. Many children simply do not walk as much as in previous years. In many cases, this is unavoidable but it is not good for health.
Which Brings Us Back to Belviq
Belviq may help some of these overweight children look healthier but most health experts are voicing serious concerns about the need for prescribing any slimming pills to children as young as six. It may be a quick fix solution to child obesity but it does not address the problems of a lack of exercise and an inadequate diet nutritionally.
Our future long-term health is established during the years of childhood development.
It is very important to eat healthily during these years and it is the responsibility as a parent to ensure that the children are getting the correct diet with plenty of healthy fruit and vegetables and undertaking some exercise as well. A healthy diet lays the foundation for your children’s future development and health that will last long into the next generation.
Childhood does not last forever and it is a vital role of parents to ensure that children eat food that will do them good. It can be hard with so much cheap food on offer, pester power and time constraints, but who ever said that parenting was an easy job?
Arena have already stated that adult patients should stay on Belviq permanently so it seems likely that the children’s slimming pill will work in much the same way.
Committing children as young as six to long-term drug taking does not seem to be a responsible option. Replacing a healthy eating and exercise regime with a slimming pill that may have dangerous or unpleasant side effects will not be good for long-term health.
Obese children need to lose weight naturally and to learn healthy eating habits for the future. Children should not have to rely on medication to keep them fit.
Have your say. Let us know what you think about children taking diet pills below.