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Obes Rev. 2001 Aug;2(3):199-211.

The safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical and herbal caffeine and ephedrine use as a weight loss agent.

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Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 6400 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808, USA.


Since passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the sale of herbal dietary supplements containing caffeine and ephedrine for weight loss has become widespread in the United States. Reports of adverse events associated with the use of these non-prescription supplements have raised concerns in the United States regulatory community. Restricting the use of these products is now being considered. Such restriction should be based upon controlled clinical trials. This review of the literature in Medline relative to the use of caffeine and ephedrine in the treatment of obesity concludes that caffeine and ephedrine are effective in causing weight loss. Caffeine and ephedrine give equivalent weight loss to Diethylpropion and superior weight loss compared to dexfenfluramine. Caffeine and ephedrine have a long history of safe, non-prescription use. The adverse events accompanying acute dosing are mild and transient. Adverse events with caffeine and ephedrine reach and remain at placebo levels after 4-12 weeks of continuous treatment, but data from randomized trials up to 6 months only are available. Obesity is chronic, requires chronic treatment, its incidence is increasing and it has few effective treatments. The benefits of caffeine and ephedrine in treating obesity appear to outweigh the small associated risks. Restriction of dietary herbal supplements containing caffeine and ephedrine, often with other ingredients, should be based on controlled clinical trials of these products.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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