Excerpts From October, 1999 Article — Newsweek Magazine
Metabolife Diet Pills
…The catch is that the stimulants it contains can be dangerous: the Food and Drug Administration has warned that products like Metabolife can cause “cardiac arrhythmia and death.” Several states have moved to ban or restrict their use, and a few users have filed lawsuits claiming injury.
Metabolife is just one of several popular supplements – others include Therma Pro, Diet Pep and Diet Fuel – that combine caffeine with the stimulant ephedra. Derived from mahuang, ephedra constricts the blood vessels while speeding the heart and the nervous system. It also helps suppress appetite. What worries some experts is that it’s chemically identical to ephedrine, a synthetic compound regulated for safety. Asthmatics take ephedrine to shrink swollen tissue in their airways. Until the 1980s, it was also used in over-the-counter cold and allergy pills, as a nasal decongestant. But when states started restricting sales, manufacturers switched to a gentler chemical called pseudoephedrine. “Ephedrine had too much potential for abuse,” says Dr. Darrell Hulisz of the University Hospitals of Cleveland. “It was used as cheap, legal speed.”
The scientific record on Metabolife is still sketchy. In one small experiment, researchers and Vanderbilt University clocked the metabolic rates of 17 patients – once while they were taking the supplement and once while they were taking a placebo – and found that the rates picked up slightly on Metabolife. In another small study, researchers at Columbia University and New York’s St. Luke’s Hospital found that volunteers who took Metabolife for eight weeks lost more weight then those taking placebo. But the study was neither large nor long enough to prove the treatment effective, and it raised questions about safety. The patients on Metabolife were more likely to experience jitteriness, insomnia and heart palpitations, as well as increased blood pressure. “In my mind, you treat obesity to lower blood pressure”, says Dr. Steven Heymsfield, an obesity specialist who helped conduct the study (and who serves as a trustee for Slim-Fast). “So anything that raises it is at least an orange flag.” Other orange flags include “adverse events” reported voluntarily to the FDA. Those reports don’t establish cause and effect, but they document dozens of seizures, strokes and heart attacks-and at least nine deaths-among ephedra users. (End)
States Make Serious Health Warning Mandatory!
Laws in some States are already beginning to make mandatory the requirement of serious health warnings posting on all Metabolife weight loss products, such as this one in Texas:
Warning: “This diet pill has ephedrine group alkaloids in the form of herbal extracts and may cause serious adverse health effects”.