Ephedra: Try it or Toss it?

Been going back and forth on this with a friend, and though the Teeming Millions here at the Message Board might be able to separate fact from fiction…

One of my good friends here at school is thinking about taking Ephedra. The facts of this case study are as follows: He is a 22 year old white male, at a major Midwestern university. He plays on the lead team of one of the school’s club sports, which is nationally ranked. Although he worked out extensively last summer, he kind of fell behind on the gym this past fall, and has ramped up the time spent working out since the beginning of the year, between a fitness class he is taking, practice with this team, and weekly trips to the gym.

Although muscular, he is concerned about the fact that he has never been able to get the “washboard” stomach he has been looking for, and has decided that Ephedra would be the solution to this.

This is where the debate sets in…

While I point to the fact that the FDA is close to banning sales of Ephedra, he is finding study after study online saying that side effects would be minimal for someone like him, and that most of the governmental ban is “rhetoric.” He insists that he would be able to tell if anything strange would be going on, and would stop taking the pills (which he is considering trying for a month or so as a test run).

The Question: Would you be concerned that he is experimenting with this and try to convince him to stop? What evidence would you use? Or does this healthy young man face little, if any, risk from this trial run, based on your knowledge?

(Wasn’t sure which board this would go in, but Great Debates seemed appropriate)

If he is an athlete and he knows his body, then he has nothing to worry about. If he keeps within the recommended dosage then he has nothing to worry about. As long as he keeps himself well-hydrated, he has nothing to worry about.

More people die every year from a bad reaction to aspirin than do people using ephedra (relatively speaking).

The people who were hurt or died from using it were fat overweight slobs who did not use the recommended dosage or had a preexisting condition (that was going to catch up to them anyway) or they did not keep themselves hydrated. Banning this substance is not going to stop overweight and lazy people from taking shortcuts at the expense of their health (fen-fen/atkins anyone?)

This ephedra ban is fear-mongering and political slight-of-hand all rolled into one.

I cringe when I see well-meaning but utterly clueless people raising cain over something as harmless as ephedra, while not batting one eyelid when the same person eats fastfood or smokes a cigarette. The latter two are proven killers.

Haven’t there been several cases where professional atheletes, who presumably know their own bodies, have taken ephedra and ended up keeling over stone cold dead in the middle of a game?
The risk factor may be small, but a feeling that you “know your own body” does nothing to diminish that risk.

I say toss it. This freind of yours sounds like he is in great shape… he’s prolly really ripped as it is. So what if he has a little bit of fat… he prolly makes up for it elsewhere.

Taking ephedra will prolly only make him more cut… and i dont need such competition… :stuck_out_tongue:

And the “case study” has found his way to the message board. It was only a matter of time.

I think you’re a little more than partial, Fuzzy.

[Moderator Hat ON]

Do not offer advice as to how to do illegal acts on this MB. Also, I would advise you not accept as gospel any medical information given here. I will be consulting with the other admins/mods re this particular situation to determine the proper course for this thread.

[Moderator Hat OFF]


Sorry if I broke any rules. Purchasing/using Ephedra is not illegal…just something that has been in contest, healthwise…and may soon be taken off shelves by the FDA.

Excellent point regarding accepting medical information here…my interest in raising the issue is that most of the “pro” information on the 'net seems to be coming from people who are selling the pills…and while the government is considering a ban, it is much more difficult to find the “con” information online. I am largely curious about where people stand on the government’s proposed ban, and whether the health concerns seem valid. If you feel that we might be treading on shaky ground here, from a “medical advice” standpoint, please feel free to boot the thread.

Yea… lets leave it to the Gov’t to decide whats good for us and what’s not. They, after all, are smarter than we are and should make decisions for us.

I mean… just look at their brilliant moves… ban ephedra cause it killed a couple people out of a million. But smoking… nah thats fine… as long as tobacco companies and users bring in billions of tax revenues… who cares how many people die.

These are the same guys using other “compounds” and dehydrating themselves. At least one of them had a pre-existing condition, too. That is like saying smoking caused the death of man killed in a car accident while smoking and driving drunk.

You are probably not a powerlifter or an olympic lifter because we know our bodies very well. Any compound that we come in contact with affects us in one way or another and we are highly attuned to even the most minute of changes. In fact, knowing your body does everything to diminish this small risk.

Someone planning to take ephedra should read the Rand report (which the FDA used in announcing its decision to take ephedra off the shelves). It includes documented cases of athletes with no pre-existing conditions dying after taking ephedra. Close to 1,493 “adverse events” were reported over a ten-year period (covering such things as strokes, seizures, heart attacks etc.) and 81 deaths were linked to ephedra use, according to Public Citizen.

From cnn.com: "The “Annals of Internal Medicine” reports this month that though products with ephedra make up less than 1 percent of dietary supplement sales, it has accounted for 64 percent of the serious side effects that have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in association with dietary supplements.

A second study published in the journal “Neurology” found that the rate of strokes among ephedra users was higher than in nonusers. The supplement users in the study took more than 32 milligrams a day; some ephedra labels recommend almost 100 milligrams daily."

Ephedra does not create wonder abs. It is not a muscle builder. There are some studies which show it can help people lose small amounts of weight for limited periods of time. It is not a long-term solution to being overweight.

The risks are real. It is foolish to ignore them for the sake of such a limited benefit.

I’d be interested in knowing what percentage of athletes know which particular amino acid is found in position 13 of their [symbol]b[/symbol][sub]2[/sub] adrenergic receptors. For that matter, what percentage of athletes know enough about bodies in general to describe the relevance of adrenergic receptor alleles to the safety and efficacy of ephedra?
A general sense of “knowing your body” is not a good enough safety check in the face of specific and unknowable biochemical traits, particularly when the means by which ephedra kills is also unknown.

FuzzyWuzzy, you are fairly new here, and so you get a little benefit of the doubt, but not much.

If you want to debate whether the Government should be “telling us what’s good for us” (like, banning heroin, regulating food contents, demanding that we stop at red lights, disallowing individuals to own nuclear weapons, etc) that’s fine, that’s certainly debatable.

But you (and this goes to everyone else posting here) need to be aware:

(1) Discussion of how to break U.S. laws is NOT permitted on these boards. You can discuss whether the law is fair or just, but you cannot advise people on how to circumvent them or how to commit illegal acts.

(2) Giving medical advice on these Boards is improper (and probably illegal, see (1) above) unless you are a licensed physician. Even then, any person with enough brains to be a physician knows that you should NOT be offering medical advice online. You don’t know any of the details of this person’s medical history or life, to be saying that any particular drug is good, bad, or indifferent to him. For instance: Do you know what allergies he has? Or prior reactions to medications? In the absence of a medical exam, it is ludicrous for you (especially as a non-physician) to be giving medical advice.

(3) Gaudere is a Moderator of this forum and has formally warned you (and others) where the line is. You are advised to be careful where you tread. Failure to heed the warnings of a Moderator is ill-advised if you wish to remain here.

As I mentioned above, using Ephedra is not illegal. It is considered by many to be ill-advised, based on the fact that the FDA is CONSIDERING removing it from store shelves. Currently, you can purchast it legally.

Again, as I mentioned above, I agree with you here. I should have been more explicit in my phrasing…I am largely curious about people’s impression of marketers using research studies (or “studies”) to sell potentially harmful products. I find it interesting that the easiest research to find on the Internet is research sponsored by drug manufacturers. If drug manufacturers have enough knowledge about the use of Internet search engines to be able to have a corner on the “information” market available to the public, that strikes me as a concern…

I’d bet good money the FDA has put much more effort and consideration into this than you have.

I don’t recall any normal, healthy people (in fact, people in better-than-average health) keeling over because of one cigarette.

First point: You only know how the compounds you’ve taken affect your body. For all you know, the next wonder supplement is going to be fatal to you and almost no one else.

Second point: Even if you do know how you react to various compounds and whatnot, it takes time to amass that knowledge. Someone who’s 22 very likely has not had enough experience to know his body, and should be a little more cautious.

I have no opinion on ephedra usage. It’s something the friend of the OP will have to decide for himself.


According to the FDA web site, the ban on Ephedra is over a month and a half away.

It is still legal.

Now, if this discussion were taking place two months into the future… you would most certainly be correct.

I see you broke out your biochem textbook. Any true athlete that does not know the basics of physiology is just as lost as any brainiac that has never lifted a weight or invested serious time in goal-oriented athletics.

As I said before, people who do not train their bodies have no idea what it means to know their body.

You, unfortunately, fall into that category.

First point: You only know how the compounds you’ve taken affect your body. For all you know, the next wonder supplement is going to be fatal to you and almost no one else.

Second point: Even if you do know how you react to various compounds and whatnot, it takes time to amass that knowledge. Someone who’s 22 very likely has not had enough experience to know his body, and should be a little more cautious.

I moderate 5 bodybuilding boards with over 30k members. I know a few things about supplements and chemicals. The first thing I tell most people when it comes to chemicals and supplements is to do as a rat would do. Rats sample a small piece of something that is a potential foodstuff. If they do not react adversely within a certain time period, they go back and use more.

Also, someone who is 22 does not have to try everything in order to gain experience. They can feed on the experience of others and/or start small and see how they react.

Finally, your first point is moot because any substance, including food can cause a fatal reaction for one without affecting others in the same way.

Your writing style is very deceptive. You do not mention how many athlete deaths were attributed to ephedra. That is because there are no conclusive links.

Also, you mention “adverse effects” without listing all of them. An “adverse effect” could be as harmless as a bad headache. And you are talking about 10 years. Analgesics (aspirin etc,) kill over 160,000 people per year alone. As for the 81 deaths LINKED to ephedra, that is weak at best. You can link many things to a fatality without having that link be the primary cause. You can link a heart attack to strenuous exercise but that is not the root cause of the arteriosclerosis that really caused the heart attack.

Of course there are more strokes associated with ephedra users. When you have a fat lazy overweight bastard overdosing (or even properly dosing) a substance that increases your heart rate, you increase the risk of blocking blood vessels. That is common sense.

No, hard work in the gym and a proper diet does that. Do not confuse ephedra with the people making false claims to sell it.

No one ever said it was a muscle builder. In fact, it is catabolic, not anabolic. The ignorance of the consumer is not the problem of ephedra.


Very true. The only long term solution is proper diet and exercise.

he risks are real. It is foolish to ignore them for the sake of such a limited benefit.

Your post does not support your false conclusion.

[Moderator Hat ON]

I didn’t say anyone had given advice on how to perform illegal acts, just that they shouldn’t. :wink: And it is illegal in some states already, one of which I am a resident of. So I wouldn’t say “not banned yet, so say whatever you like!”, but the thread is staying open. However, we do know the ban is coming for sure, so I suggest posters try to focus on theory and not edge towards untrained medical advice re taking it.

[Moderator Hat OFF]