Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, August 31, 2013
The facts about fat burners

Drugs that promise fat burning, weight loss or "thermogenic" effects have been around for several decades.

In the 1990s, it was Fen-Phen, the drug combination of fenfluramine and phentermine. Pharmaceutical companies sold millions of dollars worth of product while ignoring warnings of side effects, including a potentially fatal lung disease and heart valve problems.

It wasn't until doctors released echocardiogram results from patients taking both drugs that the extent of the problem emerged. Physicians found approximately 30 percent of patients taking the drug combination had abnormal echocardiograms, even though they had no immediate symptoms.

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested Fen-Phen be taken off the market.

As one drug disappeared, another was quick to fill the gap. A plant known to the Chinese as "ma huang" was marketed to Americans under the name "ephedra." The Ephedra sinica plant and other ephedra species increased heart rate, narrowed blood vessels (increasing blood pressure) and expanded bronchial tubes (making breathing easier). Body heat went up and metabolism increased.

Because ephedra was sold as a supplement and not a drug, there was no government oversight needed when it was released. When companies sell you a supplement, there are three critical areas where the government is NOT involved.

• The government does not make sure supplements are tested to prove they actually work.

• The government does NOT test supplements to make sure they contain the ingredients listed on the label.

• The government does NOT make sure supplements are tested for safety.

Companies that made ephedra supplements had little research to back up their claims, but customers could feel their heart rate increase and clinical studies did show people who took ephedra lost an average of 2 pounds a month more than placebo takers. The plant also has an addictive quality, so once people start taking it, they want to keep on taking it, further boosting sales.

Problems started to emerge almost as soon as ephedra became popular, but because it's a supplement and not a "drug" there was little oversight. Supplement companies were free to mix as little or as much of the ephedra into each dose and customers had no way to evaluate what levels might be appropriate.

The best-selling brand of ephedra supplement was made by the company Metabolife, and they received over 14,000 complaints of "adverse events" associated with their product. Initially Metabolife withheld the complaints from the FDA. Why risk sales because of a few upset customers?

Over time, researchers found that ephedra can cause heart attacks, stroke and death. People who take ephedra are between 100 and 700 times MORE likely to have a significant adverse reaction than people who take supplements like kava or Ginkgo biloba.

The FDA finally banned ephedra-containing supplements on Aug. 17, 2006.

That created a problem for companies that sold "fat burners." With their star ingredient gone, they had to find a replacement. Many started adding undeclared drugs or chemicals to their supplements. But by putting them in without authorization, the doses are wildly inconsistent, the side effects aren't noted on the labels and you, the customer, have no idea what's in each bottle.

The FDA has found undeclared drugs or chemicals in more than 70 weight loss supplements including 7-Day Herbal Slim, Herbal Xenicol, Perfect Slim, Starcaps and Triple Slim. (We've posted a complete list on WeBeFit.com.)

To protect yourself, the FDA offers very simple advice. They say the following are clear signs of health fraud:

• Promises of an "easy" fix for problems like excess weight, hair loss or impotency.

• Claims such as "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "secret ingredient" and "ancient remedy."

• Impressive-sounding terms, such as "hunger stimulation point" and "thermogenesis" for a weight-loss product.

• Claims that the product is safe because it is "natural."

If you see a product that advertises "thermogenic," "fat burning" or "rapid weight loss" DO NOT BUY IT. They are either lying, endangering your life with undocumented drugs, or both.

CAUTION: Before beginning any diet program check with your doctor first. For a FREE consultation with a WeBeFit Trainer call us at (305) 296-3434. Read our articles online at www.WeBeFit.com and get updates by "liking" us on Facebook.

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