Ask Dr. Zarkov

Back in 1999, when I was dangerously fat...

Q:Back in 1999, when I was dangerously fat, I used Ephedra supplements to lose 50 lbs. But ephedra was banned in 2004, and now I’m packing on the fat again. Are there other dietary supplements that are effective for getting rid of body fat?

A:Yes, there are a number of supplements with proven effectiveness for reducing body fat — most of them are listed below. Many other supplements are being sold as fat reducers, but have doubtful effectiveness — I won’t bother to list these.


Are there any supplements that could help prevent cold hands?

Q:Are there any supplements that could help prevent cold hands? Even a short exposure to cool objects or air numbs my hands and turns my fingers white and purple.

A:The symptoms you describe are those of an ailment called Raynaud’s Syndrome*. This is a very common condition that is quite annoying, but rarely damaging. Its immediate cause is a constriction of capillaries in the skin triggered by cold temperature or other stimuli; its ultimate causes are still a mystery. Sometimes it seems to occur as a disease in its own right (“Primary Raynaud’s”); but it often results from other diseases, such as atherosclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma; or it may be caused by vibrating tools, or carpal tunnel syndrome, or dietary factors. A brief review of possible causes of Raynaud’s may be found at the website (see links below).


What supplements might be useful for someone with beta-thalassemia?

Q:What supplements might be useful for someone with beta-thalassemia?

A:I’ll first discuss the causes of thalassemia, and then indicate some supplements and drugs that might be worth trying.

Thalassemia is a collection of related diseases caused by failures of the genes regulating hemoglobin production. Hemoglobin, of course, is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all the other cells of the body.

In healthy adult humans, hemoglobin is a molecular complex composed of four protein molecules: two molecules of an "alpha-protein" and two molecules of a "beta-protein". The body normally regulates the production of these two proteins so that they are made in equal amounts.

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