Fat Creams: The Disappearing Act
By: Mark J. Occhipinti, M.S.
Many, women would do just about anything for thinner thighs, with the exception of a low- fat diet and exercise. Every gimmick/fad that appears on the market cause a stampede of tens of thousands of woman who spend tens of millions of dollars which for the magic bullet .
Recently there has been much hyperbole concerning a small study done by Doctor Frank Greenway and Doctor George Bray with a group of twelve women during six weeks, of which only 8 women finished the study. Cellulite -reducing creams and lotions containing small amounts of antihistamines (either theophylline),or aminophylline) these two drugs are used clinically to relax the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract been around for some time. Claims for these creams and lotions are that they reduce the dimpled effect of skin in over-weight individuals, which is called cellulite. Both Doctor’s Bray and Greenway originally published their initial work in an obscure journal known as Clinical Therapeutics in 1987. The obscurity of the medical journal and lack of interest in their work prevented wider publication.
In October 1993, the results of a 6-week study was presented at the National Association for Study of Obesity. The physicians indicated that the thigh treated with this cream demonstrated a reduction in circumference as much as 1/2 inch in some of the 8 subjects that finished the test. “The Associated Press headlined the following: “Researchers Describe Cream That Shrinks Thighs.”
How could this possibly work?
Greenway and Bray claim that the aminophylline cream penetrates the dermis to reach the adipose tissue (fat cell), where a series of chemical changes occur. They believe that the drug causes lipid (fat) cells inside the cell to break down into fatty acids), from triglycerides), and glycerol, -which then can slip past the cell membrane entering the plasma to be ” flushed out of the body.” Aminophylline taken internally acts as a diuretic, drawing water out of cells, with the exception of lipid cells, because water and oil do not occupy the same space. Researchers believe that the loss is in fact water from the interstitial spaces, and in some instances skeletal muscle.
Doctor Xavier Pi-Sunyer, an endocrinologist at St. Luke’s in New York- City stated the test was conducted on an insufficient number of patients for an inadequate time period. Doctor Wayne Callaway, an endocrinologist from George Washington University , Washington, D.C., noted that the participants did not have body-fat testing done prior to trial, that only changes in total thigh measurements were taken. This point alone establishes the lack of credibility of this “study”.
Doctor Pi-Sunyer also pointed out that if it possible for the lipid material to be released from the adipose tissue, it could either increase blood fat levels or just be deposited in another area of the body. Doctor Robert Eckel of the University), of Colorado in Denver, stated that high blood fat have to be processed by the liver then released into the bloodstream as triglycerides, which are then stored again as lipid material inside adipose tissue.
When the news broke about the study, a Utah-based direct marketing company named Neways- attempted to capitalize on the notoriety of this nine year old product called Skinny Dip. The company, Smooth Contours filed an injunction in Los Angeles federal court under the federal statute known as the Lanham Act for false and deceptive advertising. The injunction was awarded preventing Neways from making weight loss claims. A patent for this product has been filed under the guise of cosmetics, which prevents the scrutiny of the FDA.
How could the FDA allow a drug even a 2% solution to be put in a product for consumer use and then not label it as such? It appears that as long as manufactures do not make any drug-like claim for their product they, can skirt federal regulations. We as consumers need to remember that a single, small clinical study without proper parameters (body fat testing, pre-post) with a patent application does not constitute enough proof to across the board state the general population will benefit.
In fact, the FDA is currently analyzing several creams that contain antihistamine substances to identify)- their ingredients and their concentrations before considering whether or not to send warning Letters regarding the claims for these products are warranted. One important point that has been omitted from the findings and the press is the results, when seen are more appearance time improvement-oriented than actual thigh width reduction-oriented.
Why? When the cream use was discontinued, the thighs returned to their pre-test measurements. This would be indicative of dehydration of the fluids (water in the skin).2
One More point. A month ’s supply costs approximately $30.00. Consumers will have to decide whether $360.00 a year, and the dedication to using the creams daily is worth the temporary improvement with potential unknown risks.3 In this instance, hopefully the FDA will not wait for increased risks for cardio-vascular disease or some other problems to occur before they pull this hoax from the shelves.
1. Grifrin, Katherine, ” A thigh-slimming Cream that Works? Health, niaTch/April, 1994
2. Jackson, Edward, Jackson Research Associates, Inc. Cincinnati. Ohio, 1994
3. Jaret, Peter, “Thigh High” Vogue, February, 1994 Cosmetic Dermatology, for the Patient, Spring 1994
4. Mosby’s Medical DictionM-, 1993.