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Four months after being removed from base exchange stores, the weight loss supplement Hydroxycut is back on shelves.

But the product now offered does not contain the harmful ingredient that prompted the product to be removed last fall.

“It’s a new formula that’s ephedra-free, it doesn’t contain Ma Huang,” said Master Sgt. Howard Smith, Army and Air Force Exchange Service spokesman in Okinawa.

In August, AAFES pulled Hydroxycut and other supplements containing ephedra, or Ma Huang, the Chinese name for the herbal ingredient.

A series of incidents involving adverse medical reactions was reported in the United States, however, no reports of adverse reactions involving the herbal ingredient surfaced in the Far East.

In October, the American Medical Association urged the Food and Drug Administration to remove products containing ephedra, calling the risk/benefit ratio of ephedra-laced products unacceptable.

More than 1,000 people voluntarily submitted Adverse Event Reports associated with ephedra to the FDA, Dr. Ron Davis, an AMA trustee said during congressional testimony last year.

Last spring, a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, died during physical training from an apparent heart attack.

A May 13 memo from Lt. Gen. B.B. Bell, then commander of Third Armored Corps and Fort Hood, said the soldier “was likely taking a nutritional supplement containing a combination of Ma Huang and guarana, a natural form of caffeine.”

AAFES pulled performance-enhancing nutritional supplements containing ephedra from its stores, and concession stores such as GNC in the States and at some overseas bases. Those products included Hydroxycut, Metabolift, Diet Fuel, Ripped Fuel and Xenadrine.

Signs stating the removal of products containing ephedra from AAFES store shelves are posted in aisles where dietary supplements are sold.

The ephedra-free Hydroxycut, according to the product’s label, contains the same fat-burning supplement as the original formula.

Ma Huang is no longer in the product, however, green tea leaf standardized for 210 milligrams of caffeine is a listed ingredient.

Also listed on the label is a proprietary compound called HydroxyTea containing 1,000 milligrams of hydroxycitric acid.

That ingredient, according to the Muscle Tech Research and Development Inc. Web site, “has been scientifically shown to support thermogenesis and energy metabolism.”

The label recommends users take Hydroxycut in combination with a 2,000 calorie a day diet, and an exercise plan such as 30 minutes of walking five times a week.

An employee at Muscle Tech in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, producers of Hydroxycut, said Friday the new formula is more efficient than the ephedra formula.

During an eight-week trial study, she said it was shown that there was a weight loss of two pounds with Hydroxycut’s ephedra formula, and a 10-12 pound loss using the ephedra-free formula among persons in the study.

“Actually, it’s supposed to be even better,” said the employee, who declined to give her name. “Our propriety blend works better at burning fat than the product containing ephedra.”

Officials at Muscle Tech did not return calls from Stars and Stripes.

Smith said new formula Hydroxycut is being sold at GNC stores in Okinawa.

“It’s apparently selling very well,” he said.

In 1998, The Journal of the American Medical Association posted a study of hydroxycitric acid derived from garcinia cambogia on its Web site.

Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield of the Obesity Research Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, N.Y., led a five-person team examining the potential of garcinia cambognia as an anti-obesity agent.

The study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants, and a contract with Thompson Medical Company, a West Palm Beach, Fla., manufacturer of products that contain garcinia cambogia.

Garcinia cambogia is a yellowish, pumpkin-shaped tropical fruit native to India and Southeast Asian countries.

Hydroxycitric acid is found in the fruit and its rind. It is used as a component in many commercial dietary supplements including Citrimax.

The hydroxycitric acid, according to Web-based herbal information databases, suppresses appetite by redirecting calories away from fat production and towards the formation of glycogen, the stored form of glucose, and one of the body’s primary sources of energy.

The randomized controlled trial objective, the JAMA study indicated, was to determine the efficiency of garcinia cambogia for body weight and fat mass loss in 135 overweight persons.

During a 12-week study period, two groups of subjects randomly received 1500 milligrams of hydroxycitric acid per day, or a placebo.

Both groups were prescribed a high-fiber, low-energy diet, the JAMA report stated, and body weights were evaluated every other week. Fat mass was measured at the beginning and the end of the study.

Results showed there were no significant differences in estimated percentage of body fat mass loss between treatment subjects, the report noted.

Garcina cambognia, the study concluded, failed to produce significant weight loss and fat mass loss beyond that observed by persons taking the placebo.

Hydroxycut cannot be sold in Japan, according to the Japanese health ministry, unless it meets stringent requirements as a medicine.

Hiroko Amamo, a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare spokesman, said the ministry wasn’t aware of the product which can be bought by Japanese residents over the Internet.

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