For the last 10 years, Tom Ostrander has made a name for himself within the amateur weightlifting circuit. He says he couldn't have gotten there without rigorous training, dieting, and the use of supplements; including one that's stirring up controversy:
"Ephedra puts the body in a thermogenic state. Thermogenics is the body's ability to burn fat. It raises the body's temperature, and I use it for energy and weight loss," said Tom Ostrander, NPC National Competitor.
But the FDA says those benefits don't outweigh the life-threatening side effects. They say ephedra could be linked to seizures, strokes, heart attacks and even death. The justice department is conducting an investigation to find out if Metabolife International, the country's leading ephedra seller, lied about the safety of its supplement. A statement by the company's past president says they never received one notice from a consumer that any serious adverse health event occurred.
Herbalists have used ma huang or ephedra to treat asthma, and you'll often find it in over the counter medications that are closely monitored by the FDA. But herbal supplements like Metabolife are not regulated by the FDA, and are often combined with caffeine. Some say that combination can be deadly.
"Ephedra can slightly increase your metabolism and speed up or increase your blood pressure and heartbeat and caffeine can do that too. So two substances that do that can give you an uncontrollable heartbeat," said Jeff Gould, Chinese herbalist.
Dr. Ron Davis of the American Medical Association, says consumers will remain in danger until legislation is passed to protect them.
"With prescription and over the counter medication, the manufacturer must show they're safe and effective, before they go on the market. But diet supplements can be introduced with no safety and effectiveness and then the burden of proof is on the FDA," Dr. Ron Davis, American Medical Association.
But Tom says people are overreacting. He says he's in prime health after using it for the last seven years and now takes it three times a day.
"I'll continue to use it, sell it, and recommend it. People should look at their lifestyle instead of blaming a product," Tom said.
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What is Ephedra?
- Known as Ma Huang, Ephedra is a member of the family of herbs known as the Ephedracae.
- Ephedra has been used in China for more than 4,000 years to treat symptoms of asthma and upper respiratory infections.
- American ephedra, native to the dry southwest, was used as tea by the early settlers, and was known as "Mormon tea" and "Squaw tea."
- Compounds derived from this herb are commonly found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.
- Ephedra contains two alkaloids, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
- Ephedrine, the main constituent, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. It also relieves swellings of the mucous membrane.
- Pseudoephedrine is a nasal decongestant and has less stimulating effect on the heart and blood pressure.
- Because of its stimulating effect on the nervous system, ephedra can be found in some popular weight loss and energy products.
- For dieters it suppresses the appetite and stimulates the thyroid gland which stimulates metabolism.
- Concerns over the potency of this herb and its isolated alkaloids have prompted increased regulatory scrutiny and industry label warnings.
Source: http://www.ephedra.demon.nl (The Ephedra Site)
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