Scary new weight loss drugs are winning market approval and the world -- including Forbes -- is talking about the über-creepy feeding tube diet.
But any time you try to speed weight loss beyond the doctor-recommended 1 to 2 pounds a week, you take risks.
So now it's time to look at how far we're willing to go to lose weight - and what risks we're willing to take. Here are the latest diet trends, and a realistic assessment of the dangers they pose.
1. The Japanese Weight Loss Pill
What it is: A supplement imported from Japan known as Xiushentang, marketed as Japan Rapid Weight Loss Diet Pills in three colors: green, yellow, and blue. Ten days ago, the FDA issued a strong warning, stating that the medications contain the chemical phenolphthalein and the weight loss drug sibutramine.
Why it's dangerous: Phenolphthalein is listed by the FDA as a suspected carcinogen, and sibutramine, sold as the brand name diet drug Meridia, was pulled from the market in 2010 for raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.
2. Clen Fat Burner
What it is: Clenbuterol is a steroid used to treat repiratory illnesses in horses. It's not approved for human use, but is taken illegally by athletes and models to boost muscle mass and trigger weight loss. It made headlines last summer when athletes were banned from the Pan Am games after testing positive for "Clen," as it's familiarly known.
Why it's dangerous: Clenbuterol hasn't been tested in humans, but there's evidence from animal studies that it's taken up by muscle tissues throughout the body, and therefore can damage the heart muscle. It's illegal to use it in human consumption, yet it's easily available from many pharmaceutical websites with a quick Google search. There's a separate concern that we might be taking clenbuterol unknowingly; this summer the FDA warned that up to 40 percent of imported meat had tested positive for clenbuterol, carried over from animal use.
3. The Brazilian Diet Pill
What it is: Nutritional supplements imported from Brazil, sold under the name of Emagrece Sim and Herbaslim. The long list of ingredients includes Librium, the antidepressant Prozac, and the stimulant Fenproporex. Since 2006,when the FDA issued a warning against these drugs, news reports have sounded the alarm.
Why it's dangerous: The combination of uppers and downers can cause severe mood swings. Allure Magazine reported on models who were experiencing extreme personality changes, as well as other odd symptoms, such as a hypersensitivity to touch. Meanwhile the drugs continue to sell briskly via websites that tout their amazing weight loss benefits.
4. Qnexa and Successors
What it is: The supposed future blockbuster diet drug Qnexa is just the first of several weight loss drugs in final phase testing. All are combinations of existing drugs, making for a faster approval process. Contrave, from Orexigen, is a mix of bupropion, an antidepressant also used to quit smoking, and naltrexone, used for alcoholism and addiction to opiates. Arena pharmaceuticals' Lorcaserin, an appetite suppressant, may finally be approved by the FDA later this year.
Why it's dangerous: Honestly, any drug that messes with metabolism and mood is likely to have tricky side effects. Last year the FDA sent Contrave back into testing, requiring long-term studies to make sure it -- like many diet drugs that work as stimulants -- doesn't raise heart attack risk. Lorcaserin, which had much better safety in studies, was also sent back by the FDA for further testing due to concerns about heart valve damage.
5. The K-E Diet
What it is: Forever more to be known as the "feeding tube diet" or "nose drip diet," the K-E method involves inserting a naso-gastric tube through the nose, through which a nutrient solution is delivered directly to the stomach. As reported by Forbes, the K-E method limits calorie intake to approximately 800 calories a day, as you eat no food while you're doing it. There's not a lot more to say about this crazy new diet trend that hasn't been said. Popularized by brides looking to drop the proverbial 1o pounds in two weeks (except this diet promises a 20-pound loss in 10 days), the procedure involves finding a doctor who will oversee the procedure.
Why it's dangerous: Well, it involves inserting a feeding tube down the nose into the stomach. There's considerable risk of inflammation and infection. The process puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis, which means burning fat instead of glucose for energy. Technically it works to lose weight, but ketosis elevates the levels of ketones in the blood, which puts considerable stress on the liver and kidneys. And consider the questionable credentials of any doctor willing to do this procedure on an otherwise healthy patient. There's just no other way to describe this trend than courting disaster.