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Speakeasy forum

General discussion

So much for 'safe and natural' -- big award vs Metabolife

by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / June 23, 2004 11:06 PM PDT

Hi, all.

I don't know if it caused her stroke or not -- but metabolifie (and similar herbal concoctions) are really facilitators for the laxative abuse form of anorexia, and anything but safe. And if the award puts the company out of business, good -- they shouldn't be in business in the first place, as their product is indeed dangerous.
Woman awarded $7.4 million in suit against Metabolife

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!

Discussion is locked
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by James Denison / June 24, 2004 2:10 AM PDT

If you want ephedra, you can get it cheaply by buying Primatene OTC at a department or pharmacy store. Surely they listed the ingredients on the side of the product?

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Re: Primatene
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / June 24, 2004 3:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Primatene

Hi, James.

Ephedra is now banned from all products in the US, so Primatene must have been reformulated. And you can't expect a lay person to read the ingrediants list and know the characteristics of each. The key point is all the advertising labeling it "safe and natural."

-- Dave K.
Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!

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Re: Primatene
by James Denison / June 25, 2004 1:47 AM PDT
In reply to: Re: Primatene

No, the ban isn't on OTC drugs approved by the FDA already, but against the supplement industry alone. Primatene still has a form of ephedra (ephedrine HCL) in it, but at increase prices compared to it's availability in the supplement industry. It's a battle that's been shaping up on many fronts, this being just one of them as the FDA finally managed to get a law, restricted to some degree, to regulate and impose themselves upon the diet, health and food supplement industry. Ephedra is the key to the FDA power grab over that industry, it is just the beginning of it.


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Re: So much for 'safe and natural' -- big award vs Metabolif
by Evie / June 24, 2004 4:17 AM PDT
but metabolifie (and similar herbal concoctions) are really facilitators for the laxative abuse form of anorexia


Please elaborate. Laxative abuse is something bulimics do, not anorexics. Has NOTHING to do with abusing appetite suppressants and/or other weight-loss supplements. Are the makers of Ex-lax next?

I do think that so long as there is not better FDA certification/oversight of dietary supplements, a disclaimer ought to be required and buyer beware.

Evie Happy
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Basically, Evie...
by J. Vega / June 24, 2004 5:11 AM PDT

Basically, Evie, they starve themselves, but no matter how skinny they get they still see themselves as overweight, so many of them result to laxitive abuse.

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Beg to differ J ...
by Evie / June 24, 2004 5:52 AM PDT
In reply to: Basically, Evie...

... laxative abuse is more of a symptom of bulimics (binge and purge by whatever means) than it is of anorexics (who don't eat much at all). My issue was with Dave trying to pin this on the makers of diet supplements. "Safe and natural" is not an issue for those in the throes of eating disorders. Any women's or teen mag can give all the pointers Sad

Evie Happy

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Sugestion, Evie...
by J. Vega / June 24, 2004 6:00 AM PDT
In reply to: Beg to differ J ...

Suggestion, Evie, check out the details of Anorexia Nervosa on the web. BTW, the wife of a close friend suffered from it (no details, recognizable name)

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Re: Sugestion, Evie...
by Evie / June 24, 2004 11:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Sugestion, Evie...

Hi J,

I also have known several people afflicted by bulimia and anorexia, and did quite a bit of research for a Psych project in college. My understanding of the two eating disorders is similar to that stated here:

What is the difference between anorexia and bulimia?

Anorexia is an illness that occurs mainly in teenage girls, although increasingly boys suffer from it too. People with anorexia are obsessed with being thin and are terrified of gaining weight. As a result, they starve themselves (especially avoiding high-calorie foods), and exercise obsessively until they become extremely thin and well below the normal weight for their age and height.

Bulimia usually affects women in their early to mid-twenties. People with bulimia are also terrified of gaining weight, but they can usually keep within a normal weight. This is because they eat very large amounts of fattening food (called 'bingeing'), but then get rid of that food by vomiting or by taking laxatives.

Another link

Now I'm sure there are exceptions and cases that are neither purely anorexia or bulimia, but the abuse of laxatives in eating disorders is more commonly associated with the "purge technique of choice" for bulimics.

In any case, we are having a futile disagreement here, because my point was more to address this statement of Dave's: metabolifie (and similar herbal concoctions) are really facilitators for the laxative abuse form of anorexia, and anything but safe.

Metabolife contained ephedra which is a stimulant and perhaps has an appetite suppressant action? I can see that anorexics typically take such to assist them in resisting the urge to eat and/or to improve their energy levels. But is it the fault of the manufacturers of Metabolife, Dexatrim (remember the phenopropanolamine thing a few years back?), Carb blockers, etc. that primarily young women develop eating disorders? The prime facilitators as I see it are the editors of the teen and women's magazines from whom every person I've ever known with an eating disorder has learned the tricks of the trade! At the age of 15 I didn't even know what a laxative was, I learned on the pages of Glamour and Self that these could be used to control one's weight and there were a lot of young women doing just that. It's banned now, I believe, but until I read it on the enlightening pages of those same magazines, I had never heard of Ipecac and its use to induce vomiting. I had at least two friends that tried one or the other of those "innocently" enough figuring they wouldn't get hooked that ended up fighting battles with bulimia for years.

I don't think bankrupting the makers of Metabolife will solve the two greater issues. Eating disorders are the product of our entire society, body image, etc., and I don't think the current hysteria about how everyone is obese is going to help that much at all.

The second issue is of regulating so-called "natural" or "herbal" supplements. Hemlock is natural so just because something occurs in nature doesn't make it good for you or safe. This argument has been around for as long as I can remember -- I recall when granola (high fat lots of "natural" sugar and/or honey) was assumed to be a healthy alternative to Frosted Flakes when indeed it really wasn't.

OTOH, lots of people don't want the FDA getting too involved in regulating substances because they can get much more economical relief from everything from high cholesterol to anxiety to colitis using herbal supplements. There has to be a better dialogue on this issue, liability, etc. Ephedra has been used for centuries for treating asthma and respiratory ailments. As with most herbal remedies, it has been discovered (long known) to be a stimulant and thus became popular in any number of diet aids. There have been a few high profile cases of problems associated with it's use, but the degree to which it was ABused in these cases, as opposed to used as directed is not often mentioned. However given the widespread use of ephedra-containing supplements, the incidents of major complications are actually quite low. I read an article by someone on a libertarian-leaning website of someone who had used ephedra to control her asthma, safely, for years and now has to find other means as a result of the ban now implemented. We have to balance our litigous vigor against the "evil of the day" with the potential benefit to many.

I don't really have an opinion as to the safety of Ephedra or various herbal supplements on the whole. My personal solution would be for the FDA or other entity to maintain a website or catalog of various herbs available to the public along with known side effects, etc. and buyer be responsible for educating themselves. I have no problem with such supplements sold specifically for medicinal purposes being restricted to those 18 y.o.a. and older. I also see no reason that such information could not be required in advertisements similar to the novellas that now accompany ads for Xenical and Phentermine, etc. The FDA or similar could maintain a standard database from which manufacturers can obtain and pass along the information. JMO.

Evie Happy

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Evie's right about the definitions ...
by Bill Osler / June 25, 2004 9:45 AM PDT
In reply to: Sugestion, Evie...

Of course, there are a lot of people who show symptoms of both bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. The information I have is that people who have symptoms of both at the same time should be labeled as anorexic rather than bulimic but that is a trivial detail. IOW, there is a subset of anorexic patients who binge and purge, but binging and purging is not primarily associated with anorexia.

I think that Dave was being less than precise in the original post. My suspicion, though, is that most of the users of these products have neither anorexia nor bulimia. There are a lot of truly obese people who will grasp at anything to facilitate the weight they legitimately need to lose. Unfortunately, there is no medication that is terribly effective and there are safety issues with some of the medications people use.

Whether the ban will help much from a safety perspective is more than I know.

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FDA already hit at Ex-Lax

It's not really the Exlax we knew for years before when it contained phenolphthalein. Now it's primary ingredient is senna, something taken from the diet, food, and health supplement industry. Funny how that worked in reverse in this case isn't it?
* Stimulants cause rhythmic muscle contractions in the intestines. Brand names include Correctol

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