Supersizing might be on the outs when it comes to fast food -- but it's all the rage in the drug industry.
And right now, researchers are busily testing the limits of the ultimate in supersized meds: A drug that combines FOUR different pills in one, giving you a chance to swallow once... and experience side effects in four different ways.
Would you like statins with that?
The drug is called a polypill, and the latest version combines a cholesterol-lowering statin with two blood pressure meds -- along with some aspirin, just for good measure.
The latest study claims this pill can slash the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50 percent -- but if you read the fine print, you'll find it's not a claim backed up by the study itself.
In fact, none of the patients in the study dodged heart disease or strokes... or maybe you could say all of them did.
Since the study lasted just 12 weeks, either statement could be equally true.
Let me explain. The researchers gave 378 people between the ages of 50 and 70 either a polypill or a placebo. Then, they compared before-and-after readings for cholesterol and blood pressure.
When they found a 9.9 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 0.8 mmol/L average reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol among patients who took the polypill, the researchers declared victory and went home.
But while no real lives were saved in this brief study, 58 percent of the people who took the polypill experienced very real side effects -- and 23 percent had to quit because they couldn't handle them, according to the details published in PLoS One.
You don't have to test your own tolerance for those side effects -- because you don't need a polypill or even the individual drugs found inside it.
The truth is, both cholesterol and blood pressure can be brought under control through lifestyle changes -- and in many cases, they don't even have to be dramatic changes.
A study last year, for example, found that a handful of nuts a day lowered LDL levels by an average of 7.4 percent.
On a similar note, other studies have identified common, healthy ingredients -- like oatmeal and cinnamon -- that can slash your BP levels.
For more tips on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels without drugs, visit the Web site of the Health Sciences Institute, where you'll find an extensive online library of natural treatments for any number of conditions.
And some of them are pretty tasty.