Objective: To examine long-term safety and efficacy for weight loss of an herbal Ma Huang and Kola nut supplement (90/192 mg/day ephedrine alkaloids/caffeine).
Design: Six-month randomized, double-blind placebo controlled trial.
Subjects: A total of 167 subjects (body mass index (BMI) 31.8+/-4.1 kg/m(2)) randomized to placebo (n=84) or herbal treatment (n=83) at two outpatient weight control research units.
Measurements: Primary outcome measurements were changes in blood pressure, heart function and body weight. Secondary variables included body composition and metabolic changes.
Results: By last observation carried forward analysis, herbal vs placebo treatment decreased body weight (-5.3+/-5.0 vs. -2.6+/-3.2 kg, P<0.001), body fat (-4.3+/-3.3 vs. -2.7+/-2.8 kg, P=0.020) and LDL-cholesterol (-8+/-20 vs. 0+/-17 mg/dl, P=0.013), and increased HDL-cholesterol (+2.7+/-5.7 vs. -0.3+/-6.7 mg/dl, P=0.004). Herbal treatment produced small changes in blood pressure variables (+3 to -5 mm Hg, P< or =0.05), and increased heart rate (4+/-9 vs. -3+/-9 bpm, P<0.001), but cardiac arrhythmias were not increased (P>0.05). By self-report, dry mouth (P<0.01), heartburn (P<0.05), and insomnia (P<0.01) were increased and diarrhea decreased (P<0.05). Irritability, nausea, chest pain and palpitations did not differ, nor did numbers of subjects who withdrew.
Conclusions: In this 6-month placebo-controlled trial, herbal ephedra/caffeine (90/192 mg/day) promoted body weight and body fat reduction and improved blood lipids without significant adverse events.