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Military Bans Sales of Ephedra Supplements
10 December 2002
by Wyn Snow, Managing Editor

The US Army and Air Force have joined the Navy and Marine Corps in banning sales of ephedra products in their post exchanges (stores) -- including GNC concession nutrition stores. The decision affects both popular "fat burning" products and muscle-building or performance enhancement supplements.

The Army cites the death of a soldier during a run last April at Fort Hood in Texas. The US Army's Training and Doctrine Command indicated the ban would be in effect for six months pending results of a study by the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Dr. (Col.) Bernard DeKoning, a Training Doctrine Command surgeon, "One side effect of ephedra is that it increases the heart rate and puts more strain on the heart. Soldiers participate in physically strenuous activity, oftentimes in harsh environmental conditions such as high heat and humidity. If a cardiac stimulant such as ephedra is in the bloodstream, the heart and the rest of the body may not withstand the strain."

In September 2001, the National Football League (NFL) banned use of ephedra, although it was not then clear how they would test for the substance. Ephedra is also a banned substance for Olympic hopefuls. NSF International (http://www.nsf.org) has a screening and certification program that tests dietary supplements for substances that Olympic athletes must avoid.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that approximately 80 deaths and more than 1,000 reports of negative side effects (adverse events) are linked to ephedra. Industry trade organizations dispute the accuracy and validity of these data.

John Hathcock (PhD) Vice President of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), points out that excessive use of any stimulant can be dangerous, adding that "epedra can be used safely and responsibly [by healthy adults]. Those with hypertension and heart disease should avoid it."


William Cole. "Army, Air Force Exchange joins ban on ephedra." Honolulu Advertiser, 9 December 2002.

Associated Press. "NFL bans ephedra as performance enhancer." CNN/Sports Illustrated, 8 September 2001.end-of-story




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