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Is a supplement labeled "ephedra-free" safe? (online only)
November 2010
By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Q:  As long as a weight loss supplement is labeled “ephedra-free,” it should be safe, right?

A:  Unfortunately, you can’t assume “ephedra-free” means a product is safe.  Ephedra was banned in the United States in 2004 because of serious harmful cardiovascular effects, but “ephedra-free” products are not necessarily stimulant-free and can lead to unsafe increases in blood pressure and heart rate for some people.  Some manufacturers have replaced ephedra with citrus aurantium (also known as “bitter orange”).  Especially in combination with caffeine, this ingredient can cause stimulant effects similar to ephedra and has resulted in various heart-related side effects in otherwise healthy people.  Besides, although advertisements provide explanations that sound logical about effects of bitter orange on metabolic rate, research does not support it having a role in clinically significant weight loss.  The cumulative effect of small changes that add up to cut 250 to 500 calories a day are actually a safer and more reliable path to weight control, especially if you can also work in a few blocks of ten to fifteen minutes of walking or other moderate activity throughout the day.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $91 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network .The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).


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