Monday, September 22, 2008

Like Decaf Coffee, but More Dishonesty

I got a kick out of this article about a "new" dietary supplement that supposedly contains the FDA-banned stimulant ephedra while still being legal through various loopholes:

Garza, a bodybuilder who nearly won the Mr. USA competition in 2004, said XP2G is manufactured for his store by a private lab.

He said his pills are made from the same plants used to make traditional ephedra products but lack the ephedrine alkaloid chemicals named in the bans.

Garza said because XP2G lacks those particular chemicals, it does not present the same risk of side effects as traditional ephedra products, and it is not in violation of the bans.

Hmm. So it contains "ephedra" but it doesn't contain ephedra. Do you follow?

Ephedra is actually the name for a genus of plants. Extracts from the Ephedra sinica plant, known in Chinese medicine as ma huang, contain the stimulants ephedrine and pseudoephedrine (yes, the same stuff that's in Sudafed). The popularity of ephedra stems from its so-called "thermogenic" properties--it increases heart rate and blood pressure and raises blood sugar by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. Most people know the sympathetic nervous system as the system responsible for the "fight-or-flight" response. Essentially, ephedrine acts on the same cellular receptors that epinephrine does. Epinephrine, if you aren't aware, is the same thing as adrenaline; they're just different names for the same chemical.

So what Garza is claiming that his proprietary formula contains parts from ephedra--the plant--but not the alkaloid stimulants that make ephedra "worth" adding to diet pills in the first place.

Why would you do this? Well, because, as I've previously stated, most people don't read anything beyond the front of the bottle when they're buying drugs or supplements. By being able to put "new and improved! Totally contains ephedra!" on the packaging, Garza will sell more product, especially to consumers who liked the old ephedra products that are now subject to FDA ban. What those consumers probably won't realize is that they're being scammed even worse than they were before; the manufacturer is using some loophole to claim the formulation contains ephedra when it doesn't contain the chemicals that make ephedra desirable. It's a bit like selling "coffee" to caffine junkies on the basis that your product "contains real coffee extracts!" without letting on that your product is actually decaf.

More troubling is the fact that Garza may, as they say in France, be totally full of merde:

University of Maryland professor Dr. Fermin Barrueto said legal ephedra is only a marketing gimmick. He said the only way to remove banned chemicals from ephedra is through a complicated extraction process that manufacturers are unlikely to perform.

Which means one of two things: The manufacturer is lying about including ephedra (and not including it, but listing it on the label anyway), or the manufacturer is lying about lying about including ephedra (including it despite it containing the banned alkaloids).

As they said in Smash TV: Big money! Big prizes! I love it!

1 comment:

Jon Verde said...

Oh and the FDA is going after people claiming to have products that include Ephedra Alkaloids. As long as you do not sell products that claim to contain ephedra alkaloids you are safe, sorta..