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Fast track to a heart attack

by Cindy Wendt, Science & Environment editor


They promise a quick way to a perfect body. They promise that perfect six-pack in just 10 days. They advertise 145-pound weight-loss thanks to a new supplement. Then, in the fine print, they reveal the real results.

“They” are magazines that feed their readers misleading ads that make them think that to reconstruct their body, all they have to do is “try this product.”

The reality of these revolutionary all-natural products is in the fine print. At, beneath all the miraculously reconstructed figures, the fine print says that “average weight loss expected is 8.4 pounds in eight weeks and depends on your diet and exercise program.” The fine print also admits that the circumstances under which they advertise their products are extraordinary, and the models shown in their ads are actual fitness competitors.

Not only are these ads misleading, but many advertised supplements contain ephedrine, which is like caffeine times 20, said a General Nutrition Center employee. Hydroxycut recommends a daily dosage of up to three servings per day, which is equivalent to 60 milligrams of ephedrine. Hydroxycut also contains 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving, adding up to a dosage of 600 milligrams of caffeine. Hydroxycut warns users that their product is “Not intended for use by persons under the age of 18. Do not use if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have been treated for or have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart, liver, thyroid or psychiatric disease, diabetes, anemia, or nervousness.”

Ephedrine alkaloids can have potentially lethal stimulant effects on the central nervous system and the heart, according to information provided by the FDA at This Web site says that since 1994 the FDA has received “over 800 reports of adverse effects” ranging from insomnia to psychosis to heart attacks associated with products containing ephedrine. The FDA has proposed prohibiting use of supplements with 8 milligrams or more of ephedrine per serving.

“Consumers should be aware that just because a product is labeled ‘natural’ (as is Hydroxycut) or from an herbal source, it is not guaranteed to be safe,” said Dr. Michael Friedman, deputy commissioner of Food and Drugs.

“Yes, the supplements may work,” said Kaipo, a fitness instructor for the Windward YMCA, “but are they healthy? Probably not.”

Kaipo also said that the many advertisements for these products are false and misleading. She said the pictures shown in magazines such as Muscle and Fitness showing people with incredible before and after pictures are instances when those people are in training for competitions and do not necessarily look like that year around. Kaipo said that these ads are grasping at human weakness, that no matter what kind of body a person has, they can always think of ways it should be better. “But every body is different,” she said, “and to have a body like someone else may be impossible for people who have a certain body type.”

Ads for supplements such as Hydroxycut and Xenadrine tell people that “It’s time to reshape your body” or to finally see that six-pack hidden behind the layer of fat. These ads, Kaipo said, convince people that because they can’t see bulging muscles they need to do something about it. In reality, rock-hard abs are not easily attainable and are very hard to maintain. Kaipo adds that not having perfect muscle definition does not mean an individual is not healthy.

As an athlete in high school and college, Kaipo remembers that NCAA rules prohibit athletes from using supplements with ephedrine. Athletes work hard to maintain healthy bodies and healthy lifestyles, so why would an athlete who works so hard to be healthy, use a drug that is potentially harmful?

Getting healthy and staying healthy takes patience and discipline. People need to be patient and know that results do not come overnight. Regular exercise routines and proper eating habits are what bring real results. The best plan is to stop spending time looking for quick results that never come, and start working on eventual results that will come gradually over time and be more likely to last a lifetime.



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