Last month the Food and Drug Administration announced a ban of ephedra — the popular herbal weight-loss supplement, citing potential health threats. But the FDA may not have expected ephedra users' reaction to their move. People from all over the country are stockpiling ephedra before the ban takes effect.
Caroyln Cacciotti [WHERE FROM?] says ephedra helped her lose 40 pounds. When news of the ban came down, she was in the right place at the right time. She works at a health food shop that sells the supplement. She says she cleaned out the store. "I went to the shelf, grabbed all the liquids, all the individuals, went through the books," she says.
She's already got 12 bottles in her not-so-secret stash. At two doses a day, that's about a year's supply. And she's not sharing. Not even with her sister-in-law, Jeannie Cacciotti, who lives down the street.
"She was my supplier, you know, because she worked at the store," says Jeannie. "I would say pick me up a bottle, here's the money. And now she's saying, 'No, there's no more left,' because she has it all!"
Dieters Credit the 'Ephedra Stack'
They're desperate to get ephedra quite simply because it works like nothing else for short-term weight loss. But they're quick to point out, ephedra is not a drug. The active ingredient, ephedrine, comes from a plant. But it's a stimulant that increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, and speeds up your brain activity.
However, with 16,000 reports of palpitations, heart attack, stroke and other adverse events, including 155 associated deaths – professional athletes among them — the FDA is warning consumers to stop taking ephedra immediately.
Justin Varuzzo [FROM WHERE?] has lost more than 100 pounds. He worked out, but credits ephedra with the drop in pounds. He says combined with diet and exercise, ephedra gives him that extra little something. "Most of the stuff that you buy at the store, like Xenadrine, it's usually ephedra, caffeine, and aspirin mixed together, which they usually call the "ephedra stack," says Varuzzo.
It's that powerful combination — or stack — ephedra users say, that gives them the best results.
Mary Beth Schultz,[FROM WHERE] a mother of three, has been struggling with her weight ever since the birth of her second child. "I used to work out like crazy, and then I had children, and I got married, and I have a job, and I don't have time to work out like I used to," she says.
Schultz lost more than 30 pounds — but says she couldn't have done it without Metabolife, [WHICH HAS EPHEDRA AS KEY INGREDIENT?]
A Staple for Many Athletes
Ephedra works by suppressing the appetite and boosting energy. That's why it's not only popular with people trying to lose weight – it's a staple for many athletes.
Jonathan Salitros is a competitive body builder in Minnesota who says he uses ephedra to help him in his competitions. "If I take one ephedrine pill, stacked, through a Xenadrine product, it'll last about five to six hours," he says. "That's the difference between first and fifth place for me."
"Ephedra was being sold as a performance enhancer not just a weight-loss product. And that's why a lot of athletes were flocking to it," says David Zenczenko, editor in chief of Men's Health Magazine. A surprising 46 percent of men take dietary supplements…[..? DO WE KNOW WHAT TYPES?/ multivitamins or ephedra-related stuff?]