It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
Tonight on the news there was a segment about PGX or Polyglycoplex. It is a fiber supplement that supposedly reduces cholesterol and can help you lose .5 to 2 pounds a week. I was wondering if you have heard of this and what your opinion is on it.
I reviewed the article that you mention in your email and it's just plain speculation. One of the problems these days is that such supplements are very poorly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There is, in fact, almost no regulation and any supplement that you take should be suspect. We have good science now that is showing that even Vitamin supplements are not helpful.
We do know that a high fiber diet helps folks lose weight. We also know that it helps with controlling cholesterol. This is, however, high fiber foods and the research on fiber supplements isn't as good (similar to how we know that food high in vitamins are good for you but supplements probably are not).
I have done an extensive search for good quality research on polyglycoplex (PGX) and it simply doesn't exist at this time.
There are a lot of clues in this news report as to just how questionable the claims are. First and foremost, when you hear anyone say, "It's the holy grail of weight loss" be suspicious, very suspicious. Michael Murray is a "naturopath" who made this claim, and according to the story, "has been compensated for his work done with one of the distributors of PGX."
Now I understand that a lot of respectable scientists (and some not so scrupulous) have partnerships with medications that they study and comment upon. That said, it would be fine if Murray were announcing the results of honest, double-blinded, controlled research showing positive results. He is not. He is simply selling an as yet unproven product that is poorly regulated by our government. He mentions that "PGX is being studied at some of the major university and research centers in the world."
When those studies are published and show real results you can believe them. Until then, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This adage certainly applies here.
Here's a link to information about high fiber foods and some reviews of good quality research that shows how adding such foods in your diet can help:
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP