Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks

Updated April 15, 2003





Non-Ephedra Fat Burners Still Pose Health Risk


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 stimulant.

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 are unknown.

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.




All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
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