Ephedra - Warning!  Ephedra, MaHuang, or Ephedra sinica, is a herb that contains natural amphetamine-like substances called pseudoephedrine and methylephedrine. Ephedra has been added to several popular over-the-counter food supplements and then promoted as a weight loss aid. Effects of this drug on the body include increased heart beat, heart palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, and headaches, along with a small amount of weight loss that can be achieved due to the "upper" effect Ephedra has on the nervous system.

Many people mistakenly believe that because chemicals occur "naturally" in plants, that they must be good for us. Mother Nature wouldn't want to harm us! While some of these chemicals are safe, like chlorophyll that gives green plants their color, and others are helpful, like isothiocyanate, a phytochemical, some can be dangerous if ingested. Many chemicals found in plants are identical to those made in the laboratory and are classified as drugs, like salicylates found in willow bark which is used to make aspirin.

The role of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to regulate food, drugs, and cosmetics. Because they have limited resources, the FDA does not investigate products unless serious illness or death has occurred. Instead, the responsibility of complying with drug laws is left up to each individual manufacturer of the product. In March of 2004, because of thousands of illness-related problems and some deaths that were attributed to the use of Ephedra, the FDA banned dietary supplements containing Ephedra.

A Warning about using herbal supplements: It's dangerous to experiment with unregulated drugs that change or alter the natural workings of your body. They can cause serious side effects, and in many cases death, even when taking the recommended dosage. In a large population, some groups of people will experience side effects from some drugs while others will not. Unfortunately, there is no way to know beforehand which group you are in, and the manufacturers of these products don't know either.

Always check with your doctor before using herbal supplements, especially if you're taking other prescription drugs. Do not use herbal supplements if you're taking antidepressants, MAO inhibitors, have a history of high blood pressure, strokes, kidney or heart disease. Never take herbal supplements while you're breast feeding - most drugs contained in these supplements are passed along into breast milk and into the child - and never take any drug or herb if you're pregnant without first checking with your doctor!

Note: Losing weight requires a reduction in overall calorie intake and/or increased exercise to burn off excess calories. Simply put, it requires that you stop eating so much and get more exercise. Dietary weight loss supplements that are labeled as "safe" are so because they are not supposed to contain anything that is harmful if ingested. Unfortunately, that also means they don't contain anything that will promote weight loss. Studies show that any weight loss occurring when taking these supplements was due to a low calorie diet that subjects were also adhering to.

Some herbal supplements contain mild diuretics that help decrease body fluid, and because water is heavy, a reduction in body fluid shows up as lost pounds on the scale. But diuretics have no effect on decreasing body fat. Fluid can be lost very quickly - as much as a pound a day. Fat is slow to go. Weight loss patches, wafers, pills, bracelets, magnets and other such gimmicks don't work.

For your information:

Cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, is one of the newest diet gimmicks and is being blamed for your obesity. The claim is that the cortisol your body naturally produces is somehow making you fat. "It's not your fault you're overweight" should be touted instead as "It's not your fault you eat too much." After examining the advertisements and the ingredients contained in the supplements, it's clearly unclear how they are supposed to promote weight loss, other than by following the advice to decrease your food intake and get more exercise while taking the supplements.

Ginkgo biloba (claims to improve memory) can cause bleeding into the head and front chamber of the eye.

Garcinia Cambogia (used in weight loss supplements) is nothing more than dried fruit rinds.

Usnic acid, or usniate, is a drug that increases the metabolic rate. Usnic acid causes toxicity to the liver resulting in liver failure and death.

Yohimbe Bark (claims to improve impotence) is an alkaloid or hallucinogen that can cause increased heart rate, urination, high blood pressure, and dizziness. It should not be used by persons who have a history of kidney disease, gastric ulcers, or heart disease.

Xenadrine is another form of ephedrine. Xenadrine EFX contains synephrine, similar to ephedrine.

If you feel you've been harmed by a dietary food supplement and would like to report it, contact the FDA at 800-332-4010 or visit their web site at www.cfsan.fda.gov.

Where do you get your nutrition information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed" by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist (LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered Dietitian.



CarboH, Inc.
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.