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The Bitter Truth About Stimulants

We can’t live without food. It’s essential for our nourishment, growth and energy. Stimulants, however, are not essential. Nobody ever died from a deficiency of coffee, tobacco, alcohol or cocaine. In fact, millions of people have died from abuse of these substances.

Stimulants are drugs and they’re not safe. No matter what their source, stimulants affect the central nervous system, causing changes in behavior and unhealthy biochemical reactions. Although they can increase alertness, they also increase blood pressure, body temperature, heart beat, anxiety and aggression, as well as causing addiction and death. That’s a pretty costly trade off.

“Juan Valdez,” the “Miller Light” jocks, the “Marlboro Man” (who died from lung cancer) and your local “crack dealer” all understand addiction is a multi-billion dollar business. And so do the so-called “food supplement” companies that sell stimulant laden energy boosting formulas.

Several years ago, based on reports of over 15,000 complaints and 150 deaths, U.S. health officials outlawed the herb ma huang (ephedra). But the unscrupulous companies selling it just turned around and introduced hundreds of new “ephedra-free” herbal stimulant weight loss products that are just as dangerous as ma huang.

A commonly used ephedra substitute is bitter orange extract (c. aurantium), also known as synephrine, bigarade, Seville orange and sour orange. “If you LIKE Ephedra,” one of these companies says, “then this product is for you.” But, not if you want to stay healthy.

A recent study published In Experimental Biology and Medicine found no reliable scientific evidence that supports c. aurantium for weight loss and much evidence of its potential danger. Canadian authorities, for example, are getting reports linking bitter orange to blackout, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), ventricular fibrillation (life threatening ‘quivering” heartbeat) and cardiac arrest.

But bitter orange is just one of the many dangerous stimulants on the market. The best advice is consumer beware. Read the small print before using a so-called “energy booster” or magic bullet weight loss capsules. Look for such ingredients as caffeine, yerba mate, guarana, kola nut, coca seed extract and synephrine in all of it’s various forms (bitter orange, etc.).

Remember “ephedra free” is not danger free. The “bitter” truth about these products is that many are as potent per capsule as 3 or 4 cups of strong coffee and have dangerous side effects.

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