Did Xenadrine Kill Baltimore Orioles’ Steve Bechler?

Did Xenadrine Kill Baltimore Orioles’ Steve Bechler?

Since the highly publicized death of Baltimore Oriole Steve Bechler and the apparent tie to Cytodyne’s ephedra based fat burner Xenadrine Rfa-1, I’ve received several e-mails inquiring if I still felt the way I did about Xenadrine and other ephedra-based fat burners. The answer is an emphatic yes…

Ephedra-based fat burners like Xenadrine, when used properly by healthy people who do not experience contraindicated symptoms, are both effective and safe. Although I have quoted several studies on this Web site that validate this, here’s a direct quote from Will Brink’s superb Fat Loss Revealed that I find particularly relevant…

“One study called “Ephedrine, Caffeine and Aspirin: Safety and Efficacy for Treatment of Human Obesity” concluded “In all studies, no significant changes in heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels, and differences in the frequency of side effects were found.” And where was this study conducted that the media never bothers to mention? A little out of the way place called the Department of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.” (Will Brink, Fat Loss Revealed )

The International Journal of Obesity published a study called “Herbal ephedra/caffeine for weight loss: a 6 month randomized safety and efficacy trial” (IJO (2002) 26, 593-604). It found that in healthy individuals, side effects were so minor as to be insignificant. This study also backed up previous studies verifying the effectiveness of ephedra & caffeine combination as a fat burner (if you are interested, you can download this study in PDF format here!).

Of course, the key to safe, smart ephedra use is to use it properly, which means to never exceed the recommended dose (which according to the reports I read, Mr. Bechler did, increasing the dosage by a whopping 50%). It also means you do not use it if you are experiencing any contraindicated symptoms. For instance…

Mr. Bechler had a history of borderline high blood pressure, as well as undiagnosed liver abnormalities. He also has a family history that concerns me: his half-brother died of a brain aneurysm after a workout. To make things worse, Steve’s father has a heart condition). In other words, he was not a candidate for safe ephedra use. Simply put, Mr. Bechler should never have used Xenadrine.

Does that mean Xenadrine did kill Mr. Bechler?

Well, if I were to answer that question without the toxicology reports, I’d be as irresponsible as the media, who have been happy to sensationalize this story, and blame the entire incident on Xenadrine without a single shred of proof. Doubly ridiculous when you consider Mr. Bechler’s health history.

In my opinion, the combination of the hot, humid weather, the improper dieting techniques (Mr. Bechler was on a “liquid” diet apparently), the pre-existing medical condition coupled with the Xenadrine may have been what killed the unfortunate Mr. Bechler (it’s funny how the media, so quick off the mark to jump on the anti-ephedra bandwagon, hasn’t been nearly so diligent in following up on the results of the toxicology report. The question still remains… did Xenadrine have anything to do with this unfortunate accident?).

This discussion cannot be complete however, without some blame being allocated to certain supplement companies. Many have seen the “All Natural” sales pitch come back to haunt them; people are simply not aware of the dangers inherent to all-natural products (many ephedra-based products have the ephedrine content drawn from the herbs Ma Huang, Sida cordifolia, or Country Mallow, and are therefore sometimes advertised as “all natural”). This leads to obvious problems for people who, under a false sense of security, ignore label warnings, exceed dosages, and take despite experiencing contraindicated symptoms.

To sum up, this extremely unfortunate incident emphasizes what we already know about ephedra (whether or not a toxicology report links Xenadrine to Mr. Bechler’s death)…

Ephedra-based fat burners are to be approached with respect. Never exceed the recommended dosages. ALWAYS read the label warning thoroughly. If you experience ANY of the contraindicated symptoms (high blood pressure, liver, thyroid, or psychiatric disease, nervousness, pernicious anemia, anxiety, depression, seizure disorder, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, etc., etc.), do not experiment with such a product.

Instead, investigate ephedra-free products like Xenadrine EFX (reviewed here), or Lean System 7 (reviewed here).

Sidebar: It’s also important to recognize that ephedra alkaloids (pseudoephedrine), are found in high doses in over the counter cold and cough remedies. This never seems to be mentioned by anyone in the media when presenting inflammatory stories about the dangers of ephedrine.

Author: Paul

Paul Crane is the founder of UltimateFatBurner.com. His passions include supplements, working out, motorcycles, guitars... and of course, his German Shepherd dogs.

1 Comment

  1. This is an old post, but there’s still one point I’d like to expand on…

    “This discussion cannot be complete however, without some blame being allocated to certain supplement companies. Many have seen the “All Natural” sales pitch come back to haunt them; people are simply not aware of the dangers inherent to all-natural products (many ephedra-based products have the ephedrine content drawn from the herbs Ma Huang, Sida cordifolia, or Country Mallow, and are therefore sometimes advertised as “all natural”). This leads to obvious problems for people who, under a false sense of security, ignore label warnings, exceed dosages, and take despite experiencing contraindicated symptoms.”

    Beyond the points made above, it also needs to be understood that herbs are very complex: just because an herbal extract is standardized for specific compounds, does not make it pure – there are a number of other compounds that are “along for the ride” as well. And some of these may well affect the metabolism of the active ingredients. The more you pile on these “natural” ingredients, the more complicated the situation will be.

    It is worth noting that the first study mentioned above actually used ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin – NOT Ma Huang, guarana and white willow bark. Conversely, the researchers behind the second study did not use a commercial weight loss product – they used a combo of Ma Huang and kola nut.

    To put it another way, the first study used pharmaceutically pure compounds. The second used only the herbal ingredients deemed necessary (no bitter orange, white willow bark or other crap). Thus, when enlisting these studies to support commercial supps, these distinctions need to be kept in mind. The more “stuff” you add, the more risk of adverse effects you may be courting.

    Point being, “all natural” is bulls**t. When you’re using herbs to achieve pharmaceutical effects, you are – for all intents and purposes – using them as drugs. And they should be given the same level of respect. And just like drugs, you should take the minimum number of them needed to achieve the desired effect – more is not better.

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