What Is The Weight Loss Diet Stack?
We’ve been talking about dieting and the history of diets. Most recently we looked at some of the herbal preparations that claim to help for obesity. In discussing herbal remedies, I reminded readers that just because these products are called herbs, and are considered to be “natural,” does not necessarily mean they are safe, and free from side effects. The herbs may, in fact, be safe at usual and customary dosages and amounts, but you should don’t merely assume they are because they seem to be related to parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!
Some herbal products fall into the category of ‘thermogenic (heat producing) agents’. Thermogenic substances are said to cause the body to create more heat, and thereby burn more calories. The amount of heat production in the body is determined by what is called the sympathetic nervous system. The word ‘sympathetic’, as it relates to the nervous system, does not mean having sympathy or feeling sorry for someone or something. Rather, it refers to that part of the nervous system that controls certain metabolic activities of the body, such as heart rate and blood flow. Chemicals, or herbs, that influence the sympathetic nervous system are said to be ‘sympathomimetic’ (sim-path-oh-maw-METIC), which is to say that they mimic the effect of the body’s own actions that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. One group of these products is known as the Stack.
The Stack Was Originally Used To Treat Asthma
In the 1970s, certain drugs used in Europe for the treatment of asthma were noted to cause weight loss in asthmatic patients. The patients reported they just weren’t hungry. In 1972, a Danish physician in Elsinore, Denmark observed loss of appetite and loss of weight in those asthmatic patients for whom he had prescribed a mixture containing caffeine, phenobarbital, and a drug known as ephedrine. By 1977, more than 70,000 Danes were taking what came to be called the Elsinore Pill. One pharmacy alone reported manufacturing a million tablets weekly. At the same time, in England there was another asthma product containing ephedrine, known as the Do-Do pill. It was clear that caffeine was activating the heat-producing qualities of the ephedrine in the mixture.
Ephedrine And Ephedrine-Caffeine
Ephedrine is the active constituent of the plant species known as Ephedra. Ephedrine was isolated by a Japanese chemist in 1887, and has long been used as a treatment for asthma, as a nasal decongestant, and as a central nervous system stimulant.
Ma-huang (pronounced maw-wang) is an herbal product derived from Ephedra plants. It has been used in China for hundreds of years, and has been promoted as a weight loss aid, although no scientific studies of its effectiveness have been done because the herb is sold as a dietary aid, and it is therefore exempt from testing for the American market.
The combination of ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin is commonly referred to as the “E-C-A Stack” or just the “Stack”. Many of the herbal products on the market contain ma-huang in combination with willow bark, a naturally-occurring source of a chemical similar to aspirin, and with guarana or kola nuts, sources of caffeine. There are also products that mix chemical sources of caffeine and actual aspirin in the mix with the ma-huang. Some people who take the Stack prefer using ephedrine/ma-huang alone, and accompanying it with a caffeine-containing beverage and a half an aspirin.
A Warning About The Possible Side Effects Of The Stack
The way in which the Stack combination induces weight loss is not completely understood. Some say it merely shuts down appetite. But readers should be aware that many side effects have been reported, including increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, increased nervousness, headache, insomnia, dizziness, coronary artery vasospasm (muscle spasm of the artery), liver injury, stroke, psychosis, convulsions, decreased respiration, coma, and death.
It is probably not very safe to take the Stack. Assuredly, it is not safe to take it if you are pregnant or nursing, if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, if you have thyroid disease, or any sort of psychiatric condition including depression, if you have glaucoma, prostate enlargement or any trouble with urinating. You should also not experiment with it if you have any sort of seizure disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, or severe and recurrent headaches. And, if you are taking medication for asthma or allergies, or if you are taking cold medication, you must check to see if the drugs you are already taking for those conditions contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which could result in an overdose.
If you decide to take the Stack anyway, you can expect, at minimum, to feel jittery, like a caffeine jag. Since the drug opens breathing passages, you may find you can breathe more easily. (One of the theories of how the Stack works is that it increases oxygen usage, thereby speeding metabolism.)
To limit your possible problems with the Stack, make certain you find a standardized product, one in which there is a consistent amount of ephedrine in every tablet, say twelve milligrams or so. DO NOT buy any product that does not tell you how much ephedrine is in each tablet, and do not take more than 25 mg. of ephedrine at one time. Also, DO NOT take it more than twice a day, and not after mid-day, if you have any hope of sleeping at night.
But, after all is said and done, it may turn out that any ‘opportunity’ to try using the Stack may be close to over. It is possible that selling ephedra/ma-huang will soon be illegal because of the potential dangers, and because it is unregulated.
In any event, keep in mind that the Stack is NOT a substitute for a low carbohydrate diet, and it is not a magic bullet.
Next time, we’ll talk about the so-called starch blockers. Join me then.