Non-Ephedra Fat Burners Still Pose Health
FOR RELEASE: April 2, 2003
Brian Carter, M.Sci, L.Ac.
The Pulse of Oriental Medicine
Non-Ephedra Fat Burners Still Pose Health Risk
Some energy and weight-loss supplement companies are now promoting
non-ephedra formulations such as Xenadrine-EFX, Thermo DynamX,
and Thermoloss EF. These companies imply or explicitly state that
their new products are safer. However, the new pills contain numerous
stimulants that have an identical effect on the body.
What these products have in common is that they stimulate the
sympathetic nervous system into a "fight-or-flight"
response. The good news is that appetite decreases and fat metabolism
increases. The bad news is that the adrenal glands get overworked.
And, as blood pressure increases, so does the risk of heart attack
and stroke. Over time, fight-or-flight can lead to "fat-burner
burnout," the chronic fatigue of adrenal exhaustion.
Some common ingredients of these non-ephedra stimulant pills
are phenylethylamine, octopamine, synephrine, DMAE, and quercitin.
Ingredients that end with "-amine" are cousins to the
amphetamines cocaine and methamphetamine. Phenylethylamine is
the chemical that produces the chocolate-high. In sufficiently
high doses, it causes cocaine-like effects. Octopamine, created
by modifying the problematic amino acid tyramine, is another sympathetic
Synephrine, a chemical from another misused Chinese herb (citrus
aurantium, or zhi shi), appears to have a milder effect than ephedrine,
but it still raises blood pressure, creating a similar risk of
stroke and heart attack. DMAE, a natural brain chemical, causes
the fight-or-flight response and can cause or worsen depression.
Quercitin (which may be disguised in ingredient lists as 3,3',4',5-7
pentahydroxyflavone) is commonly found plant chemical, but both
its proper dosage and drug-interactions are unknown. Also, quercitin
caused kidney tumors in male rats to whom it was given for 2 years.
3,3',4',7 tetrahydroxy-flavone is a synthetic chemical; its effects
and how it reacts with medications are unknown.
Not all of these chemicals are natural. Some chemicals are "orphaned"
from natural plants, and some are patented synthetic alterations
of natural chemicals. Even if a natural chemical is unmodified,
it is no longer consumed naturally (in low dosages along with
other natural plant buffers). Both the effects of orphaned and
modified chemicals on the body and their interactions with medications
Ephedra-based fat-burning products are notorious for side-effect,
strokes, and death. Ephedra is a natural Chinese herb that is
traditionally used in herbal formulas for colds, coughs, and asthma.
Its use in energy supplements is non-traditional and unsafe. The
FDA has invited public comment until April 7, 2003 on how to prevent
further harm to consumers.