Doubts raised on ephedra study

July 29, 2003 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Doubts raised on ephedra study

U.S. government scientists and outside experts have raised questions about a study that makers touted as evidence of the safety of weight-loss herb ephedra, according to documents made public last week.

The Food and Drug Administration asked three outside scientists to review the industry-funded study. All three reviews are consistent in their conclusions that the study was basically conducted well but is not sufficient to address the safety of these products as they are used in the marketplace by the population at large read a memo. The House Energy and Commerce Committee released the memo ahead of a Wednesday hearing where lawmakers will question manufacturers and others about ephedra's safety.

Makers of ephedra, an herb promoted for weight loss, insist it is safe when taken as directed. U.S. consumer groups have called for a ban, saying ephedra raises the risk of serious side effects. The American government has proposed a new warning label that mentions heart attack and death among possible side effects. The herb is banned in Canada.

In testimony submitted to the committee, Columbia University scientist Carol Boozer, a lead researcher on the ephedra study, said results were peer-reviewed and published in a reputable scientific journal. She also said more research would be needed to determine ephedra's effects in people who "are not healthy" or who take higher doses or use the herb for more than six months. Lawmakers will also hear from industry officials.

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