Originally Published: April 19, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: September 7, 2007
I am a twenty-two-year-old college student. I weigh about 140 lbs. and I am 5 feet 5 inches tall and I want to start using the diet drug Metabolife. I was wondering if you can tell me how safe it is. I want to lose about 15 - 20 pounds and I was hoping to get your insight on the issue and, if possible, any health risk or addiction issues. I will really appreciate your answer on this matter. I tried research on the Internet and all I could get is info on people who want to sell me the product. I don't want to use something and become dependent on it or risk my health. It's just not worth it. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
Metabolife, which is used in conjunction with proper nutrition and exercise, is considered a "dietary supplement" and contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and other chemical compounds. Metabolife, as with some other weight loss products, seems to work for many people, but the research is still unclear on whether these results are primarily due to the weight management aid or increased exercise and modified diet of the person using the product. It is important to note that because of its status as a dietary supplement, the statements made by the manufacturers of Metabolife about its effects have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the organization that oversees the safety of food and drug products.
Metabolife originally contained ephedrine (which is derived from the ma huang root). As of April 12, 2004, sales of dietary supplements containing ephedrine (a.k.a., ephedra) were banned by the FDA. The World Health Organization petitioned to have international restrictions placed on the manufacture and distribution of ephedrine, because its use has been associated with cardiovascular problems (including heart attack and stroke), seizures, induced psychosis, and even death. Most of these complications occurred in young to middle aged adults who were trying to lose weight or increase their energy levels, but were otherwise healthy. Many were high school, college and professional athletes. Research has also suggested that people taking ephedrine may develop a dependence on it.
The new Metabolife, now called Metabolife Ultra, contains other ingredients in ephedrine's place namely, "SuperCitrimax® Garcinia fruit extract" (also known as hydroxycitric acid) and Guarana seed extract (a.k.a. caffeine). Other than increased heart rate from sensitivity to caffeine, the FDA has not found any major negative effects from using these ingredients. However, to date there have not been enough studies completed to prove this in the long run. It's always best to carefully evaluate advertiser's claims for products before taking them — especially drug and diet supplements.
Manufacturers say Metabolife Ultra is a mixture of "the finest natural herbs" that burns fat by raising the body's metabolism, increasing energy levels, and suppressing appetite. They recommend consulting a health care professional if you plan on using the product to lose weight. The product's web site warns against using Metabolife if pregnant, nursing, or sensitive to caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it would be best to check with your health care provider before using Metabolife (or any other dietary supplement). The product information states that you will attain the best results and be more likely to keep the weight off if you take part in a normal exercise regimen and eat in a healthful manner. Metabolife Ultra with Guarana seed extract and Gracinia fruit extract appears to be safer than the prior version with ephedrine.
At five-foot five-inches, 140 pounds is within the normal, healthy weight range for your height. A 15 – 20 pound weight loss may be too drastic depending on the size of your frame and could negatively affect your overall health. You may want to think about why you want to drop 15 - 20 pounds. Is it to feel more energetic and full of stamina? Increase strength and/or flexibility? Be more competitive athletically? Look more like actresses and models? Are you getting pressure from a friend or loved one?
Once you identify the reasons behind your weight loss goal, you may decide that you don't need a dietary supplement to maintain a normal, healthy weight. Whatever you choose to do, it may be wise for you and a health expert (e.g., health care provider, nutritionist, exercise physiologist) to strategically modify your eating plan, weight training, and/or a cardiovascular routine to achieve your fitness goals in a healthful manner. Columbia students can make an appointment with a nutritionist by logging into Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284.
All the best as you decide the healthiest approach for you!