The American Medical Association called for a ban on the weight loss supplement ephedra last week, and a top maker of the supplements said the industry should be more closely regulated.
When misused, ephedra can cause heart attacks and even death in healthy people, witnesses told a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia. The hearing is one of several being held while the US government ponders whether to restrict the supplement, which can be sold freely over the counter under current laws.
But the government is at the same time cracking down on some makers. The US Food and Drug Administration said it had warned a Dutch-based Internet company about its web site selling Yellow Jackets, an ephedra-containing herbal product, as an alternative to illicit street drugs. Ephedra, also known as ma huang, is virtually the same ingredient as the pseudoephedrine found in many over the counter decongestants.
Companies that promote its use as a weight loss supplement say it can speed metabolism, helping users burn off calories. But these same qualities can cause heart rhythm defects, says the American Medical Association.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR WEIGHT LOSS
The American Heart Association says diet aids containing ephedra are not recommended for weight loss and should be removed from the market. Because of ephedra's effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, it may cause heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, seizures and sudden death in both previously healthy people, as well as in those with risk factors for these conditions.
Even the industry supplement said the products need to be more closely regulated. Metabolife's proposal includes a prohibition on the promotion of ephedra products as alternatives to illicit drugs. The company would also propose banning sales of such products to anyone under the age of 18.
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