Revisiting Ephedra

Sunday, February 20, 2005
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This topic came up in a semi-argument with a doctor gal (surgeon) who I see in the gym most every day. The doctor, a nice lady, is like most people: she thinks she can make better decisions for others than they can make for themselves. As another gal and I discussed ephedra, she chimed in: “It’s very dangerous; highly-conditioned athletes have died from it.”

No they haven’t. Of course, she was referring to Steve Bechler (baseball) and Kory Stringer (football). Since I knew all about these cases, and had even glanced at bits and pieces from the toxicology reports, I had plenty to say.

If we remember, those two deaths – especially the Bechler ordeal – are what promoted the whole shakedown, villification, and ban of ephedra. A quote from “The mainstream media made up their collective minds about what killed Steve Bechler before they even heard any of the facts. Don’t be fooled.” Indeed, the media gave us the hysterical flurry that was the beginning of the end for ephedra, as the Feds are only starting to ramp up their assault on all supplements and herbs.

First of all, the doctor was wrong. If only she had a grasp on the facts. Neither Bechler or Stringer were “highly-conditioned athletes.” They were both unconditioned athletes who were known for not staying in shape.

Let’s focus on Bechler. He was the subject of a paper by four PHDs from the Exercise & Sport Nutrition Lab Center for Exercise, Nutrition & Preventive Health Research at Baylor University, a world reknowned research center.

Here’s some stuff culled from the paper .

The Facts Regarding The Incident

The local coroner and members of Orioles management have suggested that Mr. Bechler’s death was related and/or caused by the possible consumption of a dietary supplement containing the herb ephedra.

These reports have caused a flurry of reports in the media questioning the safety of ephedra supplementation and calls to ban the use of ephedra in Major League Baseball and/or sale of ephedra in over the counter dietary supplements.

At this point, toxicology reports have yet to confirm that Mr. Bechler had taken an ephedra supplement prior to practice.

Clinical studies published in peer-reviewed journals have indicated that ephedrine and herbal ephedra supplementation can significantly promote weight loss with no major side effects in overweight but otherwise healthy individuals. There is also evidence that taking ephedra and caffeine during training may help promote greater fat loss. Most studies show that ephedra or ephedrine has no ergogenic benefit in and of itself. Claims that ephedra is a

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