The ban was challenged by one manufacturer. The US Court of Appeals upheld the ban in 2006. There is strong evidence that the supplements cause health problems including heart attack and stroke. Several deaths have been blamed on the supplement.
Ma huang was originally used in China as a treatment for asthma, hay fever, upper respiratory infections and the common cold. Like most plants, ephedra has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes in years past. It has only been in recent decades that the need for weight loss aids arose.
Stimulants of all kinds have been tested and used as weight loss aids. Caffeine is still one of the most popular appetite suppressants, even though it does not work for most people.
Stimulants were originally recommended as appetite suppressants because they suppress the appetites of lab animals. It seems illogical to believe they would have the same effect on people. Most people drink caffeinated beverages throughout the day. Yet they are still overweight.
In 2001, the FDA recalled 13 “Treasure of the East” Chinese diet pills, because they contained aristolochic acid, called mùtōng in China. The compound is toxic to the kidneys and a known carcinogen. It is also found in the herbs snakeroot and fangchi.
In November of 2010, China banned slimming products containing sibutramine. The drug was banned in the US, the European Union, Australia and Canada earlier in the same year. The reason for the ban is heart damage that can lead to a person’s death.
For many years, the FDA has attempted to warn consumers that many Chinese diet pills could contain the drug sibutramine, even though it is not listed on the label. Some of the products mentioned by the FDA include Pai You Guo, Reduce Weight Fruta Planta and Ling Zhi.
Despite the warnings US consumers, primarily young women, are happy to buy the products. They know the supplements may be tainted and they say they don’t care.
Sibutramine is not the first drug to be found in Chinese diet pills. In 2002, the drug of choice was fenfluramine, also known as fen-fen. It was banned by the US government in 1997. It causes liver failure. 13 different weight loss products were banned in China during 2002. Seven were found to contain fen-fen.
Practically anyone would like to find an easy way to lose weight. The claims made by supplement manufacturers attract millions of customers per year. Since dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way as prescription drugs, there is little that the FDA can do, until people start dying.
While you might want to lose weight, your health is more important. Just ask someone who is waiting to receive a liver transplant as a result of taking Chinese diet pills. She would probably tell you to stick with green tea.