Problems with Ephedra

January 25, 2004 - Posted at 4:10 pm CST

PARAGOULD—There's no question beating the battle of the bulge is difficult, and for some people resorting to supplements gives them that extra edge.

Working out and eating right is a religion for Paragould Health and Fitness Owner Randy Wright.

"Everything I take is all natural," said Wright.

Randy exercises 5 days a week because it makes him feel good, and he urges young people at his gym to do the same.

"There's too much peer pressure to do the wrong thing, use too much, too fast, and I just won't let them," said Wright.

Sounds like Randy's talking about steroids, but instead he's talking about ephedra. It's a diet supplement that boosts energy levels. Originally used to treat asthma patients, in its supplement form ephedra helps people lose weight. If used in excess it can cause heart, kidney, or liver damage.

"I weigh 240 lbs. and wonder if I've had one or not," said Wright.

Diet supplements containing ephedra are expected to be banned next month, but even still Randy Wright carries a few bottles of them at his gym.

"The percentage of users versus the people who die is miniscule," said Wright.

The FDA believes that ephedra is too risky for consumers. Thousand of people have suffered health problems as a result of using it. At The Athletic Club in Jonesboro, they decided to get rid of it 6 months ago.

"When people come into our club, we don't want to assume that they're a normal healthy adult and give them something that's going to exacerbate a pre-existing condition," said Operations Manager Chad Harting.

"I'm careful and I tell people who use it and drink it up here to use their head and don't be stupid," said Wright.

"It is a highly effective weight loss supplement; doesn't mean it's safe," said Harting.