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Weight loss drug "dangerous"

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February 18, 2003

ALBANY -- During most every workout, Albany's Daniel Boutwell enjoys an energy drink containing 340 milligrams of ephedrine. "Definitely gives you a boost," Boutwell said.

Now doctors are trying to determine if the stimulant boosted young Oriole pitcher Steve Bechler's heart rate so high, he died during spring training Monday. Two Albany nutritionists and weight loss counselors know the dangers of the drug, so neither prescribes it.

"You can cause them to have bad heart problems or even die, by giving them a stimulant," Tony's nutritionist Jeff Wilkerson said.

"Ephedrine is bad for you and you can buy them at health food store, just because you can buy it doesn't mean it's safe for you," Hi-Energy Weight Control Centers weight loss counselor Rhonda Brookerd said.

Instead each takes what they call safer approaches to weight loss. Hi-Energy uses no drugs, only grocery store foods. "We do what doctors ask us to do, reduce calories and increase activity," Brookerd said.

While Tony's puts all your physiological data and health concerns into a Sports medicine computer before prescribing any supplements. "The very best product is one that's individualized," Wilkerson said. 

Despite these experts warnings, and the ones printed on the bottle of possible stroke, heart attack or death, people will continue to use diet pills and drinks, and so will Daniel Boutwell. "It's a good supplement if you use it right."

He says people just need to be more aware of how to use, and not to abuse it. The FDA recommends no one use products containing ephedrine for more than a week.

Ephedrine sales are restricted in more than 20 states. It's also been banned by the NFL, NBA, and NCAA but not Major League Baseball.

posted at 6:15 p.m. by dave.d'marko@walb.com

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