A study of the safety and efficacy of the herb ephedra and caffeine as weight loss promoters has found the combination to be both safe and effective.
The independent study, carried out by investigators at Harvard, Columbia and other academic institutions, revealed that those taking the herbal combination lost more body weight and body fat without an increase in significant adverse effects compared with the placebo group.
The research is published in the May issue of the International Journal of Obesity."The results generated from the finest institutions in the country offer hard science facts to an otherwise hearsay industry," said Christine Riggs, director of science at EAS, the US supplement maker which was one of the sponsors of the study.
"Without a doubt, a significant benchmark has been achieved in demonstrating the safety of the ephedra/caffeine combination when used responsibly by consumers."Ephedra, which is also known as Ma Huang, has been at the centre of a number of safety scares in recent months, and has been removed from sale in several European countries and Canada.
The six-month long-term randomised, double blind placebo controlled human clinical trial used 167 patients who were healthy but overweight (with a body mass index of 25 to 40). Subjects were asked to limit intake of dietary fat to 30 per cent of calories, exercise moderately and were randomly assigned to receive either a herbal supplement or placebo.
Riggs said that the researchers' advice on reducing dietary fat and exercising moderately was a wise and contributing factor for aiding in reductions in body weight and body mass. The ephedra/caffeine group demonstrated significantly greater improvements in body composition as well as blood lipids - increased HDL (good cholesterol) and decreased LDL (bad cholesterol) - in comparison to the control group.
"Conducted at elite research institutions, the study's results are very compelling and add more credibility to the safe use of herbal ephedra/caffeine," Riggs emphasised. "There is no single magic bullet to weight management. Consumers who use our science-based thermogenic supplements should do so with a proper diet and exercise regimen."
EAS currently markets several ephedra-based products as part of its weight management/energy thermogenic series, such as BetaTrim, Ultra BetaTrim, Simply Cut, BetaLean HP time-release fat-loss supplements, thermogenic tablets branded as Results for Women and BetaBlast, a thermogenic energy drink. Non-ephedra versions are also available.
As well as Harvard, researchers from Columbia University, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, Vanderbilt, Beth Israel Medical Center and Cigna Health Care took part in the study. The study can be read on the website of Science, Toxicology and Technology, a research organisation which also took part in the study.