In most dietary fat-loss supplements, ephedrine appears as an extract from one of two herbs ephedra or Ma Huang. The amount of ephedrine in these herbs is usually standardized to about 6% ephedrine. Furthermore, ephedrine does not appear in fat-loss supplements by itself; it is usually found at least with caffeine. Ephedrine by itself can easily be altered by underground drug labs to make methamphetamine (speed, crank, meth, crystal), thus its sale alone is prohibited. Research indicates that ephedrine is more effective as a fat-loss product when combined with caffeine, and most of the research has used ephedrine in combination with caffeine at a standard dose of 20 mg of ephedrine and 200 mg of caffeine, two to three times per day. Therefore, we will focus on ephedrine and the combination of ephedrine and caffeine as a fat-loss product.
The administration of ephedrine to rats has been shown to increase thermogenesis by 32% as measured by oxygen consumption. However, the addition of caffeine resulted in a 50% increase in oxygen consumption. Dulloo and Miller reported that the addition of ephedrine to the diets of mice increased energy expenditure by 10% which led to a 42% reduction in body fat stores over a 6-week period. The effects of ephedrine were amplified with the addition of caffeine, which resulted in a further 10% increase in energy expenditure and a 75% reduction in body fat .
Energy-restricted diets are usually associated with a reduction in metabolic rate. The supplementation of ephedrine and caffeine during food-restricted diets may prevent the decrease in metabolic rate. In genetically obese Zucker rats, an ephedrine/caffeine combination resulted in a fourfold reduction in body fat during a foodrestricted diet. The rats whose diet was food restricted experienced only a twofold decrease in body fat and a 50% reduction in total body protein. Furthermore, energy expenditure in the food-restricted group was about 30% lower than in the food-restricted group, which received the ephedrine/caffeine combination.
Research in humans indicates that the effect of the ephedrine/caffeine combination has been just as effective as in rats. Most research on the ephedrine/caffeine combination has been conducted by Dr. Astrup at the University of Copenhagen in the Research Department of Human Nutrition. His and other research reports that the ephedrine/caffeine combination is effective in increasing fat loss, especially when combined with a diet and exercise program .
During a 24-week study investigating the effects of an ephedrine/caffeine combination, obese patients were required to consume about 1000 calories a day. They were divided into four groups-
* Caffeine + ephedrine
Following 24 weeks of treatment, the caffeine + ephedrine group lost almost 17 kg of weight, while the other three groups lost from 11 to 14 kg.
In one 8-week study, the group consuming the ephedrine/caffeine combination lost 4.5 kg more fat and 2.8 kg less muscle mass than the placebo group, when both groups were on a calorically restricted diet. Furthermore, the drop in energy expenditure was significantly less in the ephedrine/caffeine group compared with the placebo group. In another 8-week study, the ephedrine/ caffeine group lost almost 3 kg more weight than the placebo group.
Because dietary supplements are sold over the counter, some people believe that they are not as effective as prescription medications. One research group compared the effectiveness of an ephedrine/caffeine combination with the prescription drug dexfenfluramine. Dexfenfluramine is a serotonin agonist and has been shown to be successful at promoting weight loss in obese patients and was prescribed frequently in the last few years until heart complications surfaced in patients. During a 15-week study, patients consuming the ephedrine/caffeine combination lost about 8 kg, while the dexfenfluramine group lost about 7 kg. In a subgroup of patients with a BMI over 30 kg/m the ephedrine/caffeine combination resulted in a significantly greater amount of weight loss compared to the dexfenfluramine group .
Based on the research, the combination of ephedrine and caffeine appears to be one of the most effective dietary supplements for weight loss. However, the supplement does pose health risks if used improperly.
Safety and Toxicity
Side effects during ephedrine/caffeine consumption appear to be minimal. In one study, the caffeine + ephedrine group did experience more negative side effects (tremor, dizziness, insomnia). But, these effects appeared to be transient, and after 8 weeks of treatment the frequency of side effects had reached the level of the placebo group. Other side effects may include arrhythmias and headaches.
The FDA reports that well over 800 adverse incidents have occurred as well as a significant number of deaths associated with ephedrine-based products. Some states have banned the sale of ephedrine-based products. However, all of those who died in association with the products consumed well above the recommended dose for stimulant purposes. Based on the research evidence, if the product is consumed according to label directions, and the individual does not have a medical condition, which would warrant against consuming the product, it appears that the combination of both ingredients are safe and effective for fat-loss procedures.