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Herbal Supplements

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

It is pretty safe to say that the majority of the population would like to be in good physical shape.

Of all of those who desire to have a great body (which is basically everyone), an even greater majority of these people would like to achieve this with as little effort as possible. If safe, effective weight loss was as simple as swallowing a "magic pill" there would be no fat people walking around.

A diet pill seems like the answer, but in reality these drugs can be very dangerous. For example, a commonly used appetite suppressant, phenylpropanolamine (an ingredient in Dexatrim and Acutrim), was recently taken off the market when studies showed that it is associated with an increased incidence of stroke. If you have any of these products at home, you should throw them away immediately.

Many other over-the-counter weight loss products contain ephedrine. Herbal supplements may list this ingredient as ma huang or ephedra. Claims have been made that this substance increases metabolism thereby causing weight loss. But medical reports have linked ephedrine with dangerous increases in blood pressure, palpitations, heart arrhythmias, and seizures.

Many products containing ephedrine are sold as "food supplements" and not as medicines, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that the manufacturers of food supplements are not held to the same safety standards as those that produce pharmaceuticals.

Ephedrine is one of the main ingredients in today’s most popular thermogenics -- products that stimulate thermogenesis. There are literally tons of thermogenics out there. Some of the more popular ones are Hydroxycut, Xenadrine, Ripped Fuel, GNC Herbal Rush, Diet-Phen, and Metabolift.

It should also be noted that in most of these products ephedrine is combined with caffeine to produce even greater results.

Thermogenesis is a normal chemical reaction that occurs in all human beings. Basically, your body does three things with consumed calories: uses them to meet its daily energy needs; stores them for future energy requirements; or wastes or burns calories in special cells in the body known as Brown Adipose Tissue, (BAT). This process is called thermogenesis, which means the generation of heat.

While thermogenesis works along with the metabolic process, it is different. Fat buildup occurs primarily when the BAT cells are not working right or not being activated often enough. The body deals with the excess dietary calories by storing them as body fat. The function of the BAT cells is to burn the calories your body doesn't need.

It can be concluded from the research regarding herbal stimulants that the term "natural" is not necessarily synonymous with "safe." Given the questionable ingredients of popular dietary supplements, it is wise for consumers to be cautious about taking them. People should always consult their physicians prior to taking any supplement, especially if they are currently taking prescribed medications.

In addition, none of the aforementioned products will provide benefits for weight loss without the incorporation of proper dieting and exercise.

Dr. Nancy Tice is a psychiatrist with extensive experience furnishing medical information and writing articles for online services. She did her medical training at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She moderates her own support group called "Rx for Success," writes articles for the eDiets newsletters, holds online meetings and answers questions in our Expert Interaction section.

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