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Ephedra Crackdown

NFL bans stimulant; Texas calls for safer labeling

(HealthDay) -- The National Football League has banned the use of ephedra, the controversial stimulant that is suspected of having caused as many as 80 deaths nationally, according to a story in The New York Times.

Meanwhile, the state of Texas, responding to an increase in consumer concerns, has become the first state to require diet products containing ephedra to list a toll-free number to report health problems, according to this news-service story on CNN.

The new state rule is intended to protect users of the stimulant, the CNN story says.

The NFL's ephedra ban, which takes effect immediately, comes as the league prepares to open its 2001 season on Sunday. It is the first major professional sports league to ban the supplement, according to The Times.

If a player is caught using ephedra, he could be fined and suspended, the story says.

Ephedra, also known as ma haung, is a dietary supplement most often used in conjunction with caffeine as a weight-loss aid. It works by stimulating the central nervous system, raising blood pressure and increasing the heart rate.

The problem is that ephedra may cause some otherwise healthy people to have heart attacks, strokes and seizures, health experts say. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the supplement has been implicated in more than 1,000 reports of complications. Health Canada is so concerned about the supplement that it recently warned consumers to stop using products with ephedra.

And the Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen Health Research Group asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week to ban any dietary supplements that contain ephedra.

The supplement industry counters that these products generally are safe when taken in the recommended dose.

This CNN article details some of the more serious problems people have had with ephedra supplements.

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