SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA. It is estimated that dietary supplements containing ephedra alkaloids (ma huang) and guarana-derived caffeine are used by about 12 million Americans for purposes of weight reduction and energy enhancement. Recent reports in the medical literature have questioned the safety of these products. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have just completed a thorough review of 140 reports of adverse events related to the use of ephedra alkaloids submitted to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) between June 1, 1997 and March 31, 1999. They conclude that 31 per cent of the cases were definitely or probably related to the use of ephedra alkaloids, 31 per cent were possibly related, 17 per cent definitely unrelated, and in 29 per cent of the cases there was not enough information to assess causation.
Cardiovascular symptoms such as hypertension, palpitations, and tachycardia were the most frequent
adverse events. Strokes (10 cases) and seizures (7 cases) were the most common events involving the
central nervous system. Ten reactions were fatal and 13 resulted in permanent impairment. Of the sudden
strokes and heart attacks observed 11 occurred in previously healthy persons. Among the products
involved in the adverse events were Shape-Fast Plus, Ultimate Orange, Ripped Force, and Ripped Fuel.
The researchers conclude that dietary supplements containing ephedra alkaloids pose a serious health risk
to some users.