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A Plea for Fair Play

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</P> Festivities abound to be shared with friends and family, and, of course, delicious food and drink expands our waistbands! Every year we.

My favourite time of year is the December holiday season. Houses are lit up with twinkling lights, and the air is crisp and refreshing.

Festivities abound to be shared with friends and family, and, of course, delicious food and drink expands our waistbands!

Every year we promise ourselves that we won't eat so many rum balls, shortbread cookies, or drink too many glasses of cheer. I hope that this year we will all succeed in this endeavour because some of our natural weight loss supplements are on government hit lists-albeit wrongly.

Last year ephedra was removed from shelves in Canada and the US due to safety concerns. Now synephrine (Citrus aurantium or bitter orange), a safe ephedra alternative, is on the radar screens of both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada.

A report presented by the FDA and reported in the New York Times (April 2004) stated that seven deaths and 85 adverse reactions had been reported by people using synephrine in the US. Through the Freedom of Information Act, Marc Ullman, a US attorney with many clients in the natural food industry, requested backup documentation for these adverse events claims. The FDA later disclosed it had conducted no research whatsoever concerning either the safety or efficacy of Citrus aurantium. When the reports were evaluated, there were only 20 adverse events associated with synephrine out of the millions of people using natural diet aids, most associated with the use of ephedra or other stimulants.

One person supposedly collapsed after taking an ephedra weight-loss supplement that included bitter orange, but a blood analysis revealed the presence of both amphetamines and barbiturates in the person's blood. Another consumer who was using an ephedra diet pill that contained Citrus aurantium reportedly suffered a stroke as a result, but medical records indicated the person was actually suffering from a brain tumour. Another report showed a product combining Citrus aurantium and kola nut caused a seizure and a heart attack, but the medical history revealed that the person had already had three heart attacks and used cocaine and amphetamines. One of the reported deaths was due not to synephrine use but to a gunshot blast to the chest. The fact that these reports, and dozens like them, are being used to take our natural products off the shelf is ridiculous.

Dozens and dozens of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are still being sold although they have killed countless individuals. In 2002 Health Canada sent out a warning to physicians about Celebrex, a popular arthritis drug, saying it had killed over a dozen people in its first year of use and had 70 adverse events associated with gastrointestinal bleeding-yet it is still being sold today.

We have a terrible double standard for the health food industry. Products should be evaluated for their safety, efficacy, clinical research, and years of traditional use before they are put on the shelf. If adverse events are reported, they should be evaluated properly.

alive will be watching to see what happens with synephrine in the coming year. In the meantime, do watch your waistline during this holiday season!

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