A weight-loss supplement containing ephedrine reportedly contributed to the death of Baltimore Orioles Pitcher Steve Bechler, who died of heat stroke when his body temperature reached 108 degrees. This is not the first time ephedra has made news due to po
Claims regarding diet pills aren't always suspect. Some do help
the body burn fat. But marketing tactics pill-makers use can be misleading, and
experts insist that diet pills are a bad way to lose weight.
It's been said many times, many ways: Good eating habits and
plenty of exercise are the best ways to get and stay slim. Nevertheless, the
allure of taking pills and watching the fat melt away may be hard to resist,
especially for people who are really struggling. "These type of products
are just feeding into that desperation," says Sheah Rarback, dietitian and
spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Nothing is easy or
effortless and guaranteed when it comes to our weight, unfortunately."
By Gretchen Rubin
I'm a real gold-star junkie. One of my worst qualities is my insatiable need for credit; I always want the recognition, the praise, that gold star stuck on my homework. Recently, I was grumbling to my mother about the fact that some extraordinarily praiseworthy effort on my part had gone unremarked upon. My mother wisely responded, "Most people probably don't get the appreciation they deserve." That's right, I realized — for instance, my mother herself! I certainly don't give her...
What's more, slimming down with pills may put some people in
One of the most popular weight-loss supplements in the United
States -- considered a "nutritional supplement" and not a drug by
current FDA standards -- is Xenadrine, made by the New Jersey company Cytodyne
The main ingredient in its original formula, Xenadrine RFA-1,
is ephedrine, derived from the ephedra plant. Ephedrine increases metabolism,
the process by which fat cells are broken down and converted to energy, and it
The effects of ephedrine are like those of amphetamines, also
known as speed, and for some they can be deadly. Ephedrine can raise one's
heart rate and blood pressure, so people with heart conditions and high blood
pressure are warned against taking it. According to FDA records obtained by the
watchdog group Public Citizen, ephedrine was linked to 32 heart attacks, 69
strokes, and altogether 81 deaths from 1993 to 2000. In June 2002, the group
claimed that more than 100 ephedrine-related deaths had been reported to the
Xenadrine isn't the only weight-loss supplement that contains
ephedrine. Other well known brands include Metabolife and Twinlab Ripped
Xenadrine gained more notoriety in 1998, when an American woman
slammed her car into another vehicle at 100 mph, killing two Canadian teens.
She was tried on criminal charges, but in 1999 a British Columbia Supreme Court
judge found her not guilty by reason of mental illness. She had been taking
Xenadrine, which defense attorneys said made her psychotic.
The product's warning label applies not only to cardiovascular
problems, but also to the mind-altering effects ephedrine can have. People who
are being treated for psychiatric problems or who may be at risk for mental
illness are warned not to take it.
Watchdog groups, medical associations, and the FDA are calling
for stricter warning labels or an outright ban on supplements containing
Ephedrine-Free, but Risk-Free?
Enter Xenadrine EFX, a newer, ephedrine-free formula.
It's true that Xenadrine EFX has no ephedrine in it, but
Rarback points out that it does have "bitter orange," a citrus fruit
that contains synephrine, which is chemically similar to ephedrine. This
product carries the same warnings for people with heart conditions and mental
illness as the original formula does.