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Our award-winning Kid's Health Magazine is designed to provide healthful information for your growing child. Please Note: Kid's Health Magazine is no longer being printed. Please visit our blog at http://www.choc.org/blog for the latest articles about your child's health from the experts at CHOC Children's. You can also receive our electronic Kid's Health newsletter in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list: http://www.choc.org/subscribe

Teens Tempted By Diet Pills

American children and teens may be increasingly overweight, but thin is still "in." Some teens are taking drastic measures to achieve the ultra-lean, sleek physique so popular in the media, especially in teen and young adult programming.

"My practice has a high adolescent population, and there seems to be more use of diet pills in this past decade," says CHOC pediatrician Michael Cater, M.D., who has been in practice for more than 30 years. I think the major driving factor is the media.

It plays an important role in establishing a young person's ideal body images. The media tells people to lose weight and be thin, while at the same time it promotes unhealthy food and eating habits.

Most pharmacies and health food stores offer scads of pills promising appetite suppression, body shaping and weight reduction. These pills may also be easily obtained over the Internet. Since they are classified as "food supplements," these products are not subject to the FDA safety regulations.

Virtually none of these diet pills have been shown to be effective in weight loss or body shaping, Dr. Cater says. However, they may cause potentially serious side effects. As a case in point, he cites ephedra, which was banned in 2004 because of potentially lethal side effects. However, it may still be purchased over the Internet from foreign suppliers.

He adds that many teens are aware stimulant medications cause appetite suppression and weight loss. Teens may try to purchase these medications from classmates taking Ritalin or Adderall for ADHD. Even though it is both illegal and hazardous to take these medications without the direction and monitoring of a physician, some young people are willing to take that chance.

"Teens don't realize that stimulant medications are not intended for weight loss in children," Dr. Cater says. "Without careful monitoring by a physician, stimulants may cause high blood pressure, insomnia, irregular heart beat, tremors, seizures or strokes."

Be a good role model. Discuss what it means to have a healthy body image, and teach your children the importance of proper nutrition and exercise.

"As teens grow into adulthood, parents need to stay involved in their lives." Dr. Cater says. "Adults are still role models, and families need to spend time together. Parents must talk with"not at" their teens. It is important to re-establish boundaries and develop character, while keeping the lines of communication open."

For more information, please contact Michael Cater, M.D., at (714) 565-7960.


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