The Dangers of Diet Pills

Excerpts From Newsweek Magazine Article
The Dangers Of Diet Pills “…The catch is that the stimulants it contains can be dangerous: the Food and Drug Administration has warned that the dangers of diet pills like Metabolife are “cardiac arrhythmia and death”. Several states have moved to ban or restrict their use, and several users have filed lawsuits claiming injury.”
Metabolife is just one of several popular diet pills – others include Xenadrine, Trimspa, Hydroxycut, ThermaSlim, Thermbuterol, Stacker 2, Diet Pep and Diet Fuel. The dangers of diet pills like these stem from the fact that they combine caffeine with the stimulant known as ephedra or mahuang. These diet pills constricts the blood vessels while speeding the heart and the nervous system. What worries 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 nasal decongestants. 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 these diet pills are still sketchy. In one small experiment, researchers and Vanderbilt University clocked the metabolic rates of 17 patients – once while they were taking metabolife and once while they were taking a placebo – and found that the rates picked up slightly. 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 several deaths-among ephedra users.

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