The American Heart Association urged the federal government Thursday to ban sales of the herbal supplement ephedra, saying its dangers far outweigh any possible benefits it could have as a weight loss aid or workout enhancer.
“Ephedra has been associated with a remarkable risk profile,” the association said in a formal statement submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. It cited “growing literature” linking use of ephedra a powerful natural stimulant to a variety of serious side effects, including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, seizure, heart attack, stroke and death.
“The potential health hazards associated with ephedrine are too serious to permit them to be sold on the open market,” the statement said. The association urged the FDA “to strongly consider removing dietary supplements that contain ephedra from the open market.”
Responding to what he called the association’s “disappointing” action, Wes Siegner, counsel to the industry’s Ephedra Education Council, said harmful effects of ephedra hadn’t been proven scientifically: “Any call for the removal of ephedra products from the market would be irresponsible.”
The Heart Association is the latest in a growing chorus of critics of ephedra following the death from heat stroke of Baltimore Orioles baseball pitcher Steve Bechler after a spring training workout. Bechler had an ephedra supplement in his locker. Ephedra, an ancient Chinese herbal remedy known as ma huang, is sold in thousands of dietary supplements as a diet pill or workout enhancer.