Sports One Ma Huang RP Review: Legal Ephedra?

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According to the product advertising I reviewed, Ma Huang RP “is the Ephedra supplement you need to meet your weight loss goals”.

Hmmm. But isn’t ephedra illegal?

You betcha it is. So what the heck is up with Ma Huang RP? Is it the real deal?

Probably not…

When you review Ma Huang RP’s product label one thing you will notice is that the ephedra does not appear to be standardized for ephedra alkaloids—and it’s these alkaloids to which ephedra’s appetite suppressing and metabolism-boosting effects are attributed. This very likely means this product contains no ephedra alkaloids at all, which dramatically decreases the value of this product.

Bottom line? If it’s true, it’s pretty underhanded, but it’s not the first time a company has claimed to have a “legal ephedra supplement” (check out Ephedra 5 as an example). In fact, it’s pretty scummy behavior either way—either the product contains ephedra alkaloids and is illegal, or it contains no ephedra alkaloids at all and you’re being ripped off.

Given that the ephedra element of this formula is a bust, what else is in Ma Huang RP? Good question…

1. Pantothenic Acid: Vitamin B5. It can be argued that various vitamins can help you lose weight in that they help put your body in an optimal state to do so. But is pantothenic acid actually a fat burner itself? No.

2. Bitter orange (standardized for synephrine): Once thought to be a credible alternative to ephedra, published research has not been kind to synephrine. Anecdotal evidence suggests it may have some appetite suppressing qualities, but this has not been borne out by any credible studies.

3. Guarana (standardized for caffeine): Not surprising to find this here—caffeine has a well established record as a mild thermogenic, and does deliver mild weight loss results (see Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):44-50, Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 May;33(5):989-97). It also cheaply and effectively addresses the most common complaint of dieters; lack of energy.

Plus a 400 mg strong blend of the following 12 ingredients…

4. White willow bark: In the old days, white willow bark was used as the herbal form of salicin, and comprised the third element of the good old ephedra / caffeine / aspirin stack. In this formula (which is unlikely to contain ephedra for the reasons outlined above) there is no evidence it offers any benefit, short of the anti-inflammatory effects inherent to salicin.

5. L-Tyrosine: An amino acid which happens to be the precursor of several important neurotransmitters (l-dopa, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine) which are important contributors to mood, cognitive performance, as well as combating stress. And yes, there is evidence that l-tyrosine has a positive effect on mood (see full tyrosine reviewfor accompanying clinical references) and cognitive performance.

Unfortunately, these results were obtained with dosages that vastly exceed what is present in this formula. For example this study (which showed an improvement in cognitive function) was performed with 100 mg/kg tyrosine.

To put that in perspective a 200 lbs. man would need to take about 9 grams, or 9000 mg of tyrosine to obtain this effect. Obviously, there’s certainly no reason to believe this ingredient serves as nothing more than label dressing in this formula.

6. Ginger Root: may soothe stomach duress. Ginger contains gingerols, which are chemically related to capsaicin. It does demonstrate some mild thermogenic and metabolism-boosting characteristics.

Some small animal studies performed on zingerone (a component of ginger) have been positive for weight loss (Yakugaku Zasshi. 2008 Aug;128(8):1195-201) albeit the dosage used (170 mg/kg) is too high to be transferred into humans (a 180 lbs. person would need to take about 14 grams a day).

Ginger also seems to accelerate gastric emptying… the opposite of the sort of thing dieters want (Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;20(5):436-40). Unfortunately, the aforementioned study was conducted with 1200 mg – 800 mg more ingredients than included in this entire 11-ingredient element of the formula.

7. Magnesium Phosphate: Phosphate is the “currency” of cellular energy metabolism. Short term phosphate supplementation has been shown to improve endurance performance in a number of studies (although not all).

8. DMAE: A precursor to choline, a full review of DMAE is available here. DMAE is an antioxidant and it can help elevate mood. However, I would challenge the makers of Prescopodene on their claim that it “increases physical energy.” The only study that I’m aware of that shows DMAE to have any benefit in this regard occurred when it was combined with ginseng and used as a secondary ingredient (see Clin Ther. 1991 May-Jun;13(3):373-82).

9. Acetyl-L-Carnitine: Has been used in fat burners for years, despite the fact evidence showing it has benefit for weight loss is contradictory, and usually only obtained when taken in multi-gram doses.

10. Green Tea Extract: Green tea is one of the few weight loss supplements that shows great promise and has some decent clinical evidence validating its effects. However, its effectiveness is largely dependent upon its potency, dosage, and whether it is standardized for the appropriate catechins. It’s impossible to tell whether it is in this formula, although with only 400 mg to be divided among it and 10 other ingredients, it’s very unlikely green tea adds very much to this formula.

11. Acetyl- L-Tyrosine: Including this ingredient is redundant, since tyrosine is already included in this formula. Additionally, there’s no evidence this acetylated version is any more effective.

12. Acacia Rigidula Extract (Leaves): Although not revealed what role it plays in this formula, acacia is often standardized for hordenine, and used as a highly selective substrate for MAO-B (which would improve—theoretically anyway—the efficiency of the phenyethylamine also included in this formula).

13. Theobromine: Similar to caffeine in structure but less potent, this ingredient is often included in fat burners on the premise it offers similar weight loss effects as caffeine. While it’s a credible supposition, there have been no clinical studies validating theobromine’s weight loss effects.

14. Phenylethylamine (PEA): While not displaying any thermogenic properties, PEA is an “amphetamine-related”, mood-elevating chemical naturally present in foods like chocolate and was once thought to be the reason people were “chocoholics.”

Unfortunately, PEA is too rapidly metabolized by the enzyme monamine oxidase (MAO) to be of much use. That’s why most products focused on squeezing the most from PEA also contain natural monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s), and to its credit this product does contain an ingredient which may help here (acacia) although its doubtful either ingredient is present in a dosage strong enough to elicit any effect.

PEA has been successfully used as a treatment for depression at the relatively low dose of 10-60 mg, but treatment is accompanied by the drug Selegiline, which acts as a MAO-B inhibitor.

15. Yohimbe Extract (Bark): Yohimbine is the active ingredient in the bark of the African Yohimbe tree, and there is some data showing yohimbine is a somewhat effective weight loss supplement (see Isr J Med Sci. 1991 Oct;27(10):550-6) likely because of its action as an alpha 2-receptor antagonist. Evidence also validates its “lipid-mobilizing action.”

Of course, since there’s only 400 mg to be divided among these ingredients, this discussion of ingredients is mostly moot—we can expect the majority of them to be so under-dosed as to offer little more than “label dressing”.

So what’s the bottom line on Ma Huang RP?

Even if the remainder of the product’s formula was potent and ground-breaking (which it is not), I could not in good conscience recommend this product. It either contains an illegal ingredient, or it does not, but maintains that it does. Either way, this is hardly confidence-building, nor is it indicative of a company that has your best interests at heart. Their credibility is extremely questionable; this not a company I’d trust with my hard earned dollars.

Summary of Sports One Ma Huang RP
  • Contains some useful ingredients.
  • Formula contains ingredients useful for mood/energy
  • Mah huang (ephedra) component does not appear to be standardized for ephedra alkaloids.
  • Kitchen sink formula contains unnecessary and/or weak ingredients.
  • Useful ingredients like green tea extract are underdosed.
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