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TRADOC, FORSCOM ask AAFES to remove ephedra products

By Jim Caldwell
TRADOC News Service

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FORT MONROE, Va. (Aug. 19, 2002) -- Training and Doctrine Command has joined with Forces Command in asking the Army Air Force Exchange Service to remove products containing ephedra, a compound normally found in diet products.

What prompted the requests was the death of a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, who collapsed and died during a run in late April, according to FORSCOM officials.

"This soldier was likely taking a nutritional supplement containing a combination of the herbs Ma Huang and Guara," said Dr. (Col.) Bernard DeKoning, TRADOC Surgeon. "Of concern are the supplements containing Ma Huang or ephedra, which is a naturally occurring form of the drug ephedrine. That is why this request for removing ephedra-containing products from AAFES shelves for six months until the findings from the Department of Health and Human Services are released."

According to a National Football League press release, which FORSCOM obtained, the NFL banned ephedra use among the players beginning July 1. They have added it to the list of substances they test athletes for.

A naturally occurring form of the drug ephedrine, ephedra is called a "fat burner." By burning fat and working out, soldiers feel they can raise their muscles mass, DeKoning said.

"One side effect of ephedra is that it increases the heart rate and puts more strain on the heart," he said.

"The sale of ephedra-containing products by facilities on TRADOC installations is seen by our soldiers as an affirmation that their use is safe and acceptable."

"Soldiers participate in physically strenuous activity, often times in harsh environmental conditions such as high heat and humidity. If a cardiac stimulant such as ephedra is in the bloodstream, the heart and the rest of the body may not withstand the strain."

The TRADOC Surgeon is in synch with the FORSCOM Surgeon in proposing to their respective leaders that AAFES should be asked to remove nutritional supplements containing ephedra.

"We have installations that are a mixture of FORSCOM and TRADOC, for instance, Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Bliss, Texas," he said. "It’s an obligation to those soldiers and to our own throughout TRADOC."

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