June 30, 2008

Professors Market Fat-Flushing Pills

DETROIT _ A diet supplement developed by two Wayne State University professors will be sold in 2,300 GNC stores across the country beginning Tuesday.

The pill, called Alpha-Fibe FBCx, is a corn-derived fiber that binds to fat molecules in food and naturally flushes it from the body.

If the supplement is taken as directed, dieters can maintain their eating habits while cutting about a third of the calories they consume. The pill works best for those with high-fat diets.

"If you have dry toast and black coffee for breakfast, you don't need to take this product," said Dr. Joseph Artiss, one of the WSU scientists behind FBCx. "It binds fat, so you need to have fat in your meal. Otherwise, there's no sense in taking it. It would just be added fiber."

Dr. Catherine Jen, chair of Nutrition and Food Science at WSU, and Artiss, an associate professor of pathology, collaborated in developing FBCx in 2001. The fiber, called alpha-cyclodextrin, is a byproduct of high-fructose corn syrup, and has been used safely in many other commercial products, such as chewing gums and acne creams.

The cup-shaped molecule captures a variety of hydrophobic, or water-repelling, substances, which is why it is able to bind so effectively to oils and fats.

FBCx has been sold in the Detroit area since 2003 when Artiss and Jen formed the Windsor, Ontario-based ArtJen Complexus Holdings Corp. and distributed the pill among metro Detroit doctor's offices and health food stores. Now the pair is prepared to market FBCx nationally and, eventually, internationally with current patents in 10 countries, and 30 more pending.

The raw product comes from Wacker Chemie AG, a chemical company in Adrian, Mich., and is packaged in pill form by New Jersey company Bio-Form Essentials.

A month's supply of 180 pills costs between $60 and $70, or $720 to $840 per year. For the consumer, that breaks down to six pills for about $2, a day.

At first glance, FBCx's properties resemble those of Alli, an over-the-counter weight loss drug developed by GlaxoSmithKline that gained media attention last year because of embarrassing side effects like spontaneous diarrhea.

Both pills block fat absorption, but in different ways: Alli, like its prescription-strength sister drug Xenical, prevents stomach enzymes from breaking down fat. FBCx, however, binds up to nine times its weight in fat, which then passes through the body in a regular cycle without getting absorbed.

An FBCx dosage requires about two one-gram pills per meal, depending on the amount of fat consumed.

"The only potential side effects that we have identified happens when you take more FBCx than the amount of fat to be absorbed. If you take more than the fat that binds then you have lots of free fiber," Jen said. "This is a fiber, and the general effect of too much fiber is gas or bloating problems."

Artiss said that animal studies at the National Institute of Health have shown that FBCx lowers trans and saturated fats in the blood, cholesterol by 10 percent to 20 percent and triglycerides by 20 percent to 40 percent.

He said that it increases leptin sensitivity, which is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and increases insulin sensitivity, which helps keep blood sugar levels under control. Artiss added that the pill could easily be incorporated into a diabetic's regimen.

"It will only work when it's taken the way it's supposed to be taken _ this is not a license to overeat," said Dr. George Grunberger, an endocrinologist who runs the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Grunberger Diabetes Institute. "Because it absorbs fat in your diet, you have to calculate the limit of the amount you can absorb. If you have a typical 2,000-calorie diet," FBCx will "likely absorb at least 500 calories per day _ so, in essence, you should be losing a pound a week."

Grunberger collaborated with Jen and Artiss on a clinical study in 2006, in which 66 metro Detroit obese diabetics, who were regularly gaining weight, took the supplement. Half took FBCx; the other half, placebos. The three-month study, published in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, showed that neither group demonstrated significant weight loss in the time frame.

But because of positive results in the FBCx users in lowering blood lipids and leveling off weight gain, the study concluded that "FBCx has thus shown promising benefits in weight maintenance."

Further clinical studies are under way.

Dr. Fred Whitehouse, an endocrinologist at Henry Ford, is less optimistic about the findings. He said that the sample size in the 2006 human study was too small, the results minimal, and that no pill can work as a permanent weight loss measure.

"I don't think there are any miracles out there _ there is no quick fix," he said. "Most of us are kind of wary, anyway, of things that get put on the market in the health food area."

Still, John Hoffman, manager of Health Nut Vitamin, a privately-owned health supplement store in Roseville, Mich., said he sells about 10 bottles of FBCx a week, to customers who return each month to restock their supply.

"It's one of my top sellers," Hoffman said. "And part of the reason people are really attracted to it is because it's Michigan-produced."

Jason Manshum has been an FBCx consumer for five years.

"A little bit of a fast-food kind of guy," he said he's a meat eater who doesn't "eat your golden boy health diet." He said he is, however, "a poster boy for losing weight."

The 56-year-old engineer from Windsor, Ontario, said he's dropped 47 pounds _ from 270 to 223 _ with little change in his lifestyle or dietary habits, after starting on the supplement. In that time, he said his cholesterol and blood lipids have dropped significantly _ along with his pant size.

"Boy, it's just truly _ it's just the closest thing to a miracle pill as you're going to find," he said. "It's the answer that the fat people of the world are seeking."


(For more information, visit www.alpha-fibefbcx.com or call 877-462-4700.)


(c) 2008, Detroit Free Press.