Ephedra alternatives aim to cover gap in market

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Weight loss, Ephedra, Obesity, Metabolife

Supplement maker Metabolife, a name strongly associated with the
weight loss herbal ephedra, has launched a new appetite
suppressant, free of both ephedra and caffeine.

Metabolife Ultra Caffeine instead contains B-vitamins, which are essential in energy metabolism, and garcinia extract, said to reduce appetite.

At the daily serving level recommended by the company, studies have shown that it is effective in promoting weight loss, it said.

Metabolife will be hoping that its new Ultra range can regain some of the sales generated by ephedra, the herb soon to be banned from the dietary supplement market. But a new report suggests that the removal of the herb has already had a significant impact on the US market for diet pills.

Revenues have pulled back from previous record highs, according to the study by Kalorama Information​. After several years of strong growth, the market topped out at near $900 million in sales in 2002 and will finish 2003 closer to $800 million.

The controversy over ephedra and lingering suspicions from previous problem ingredients such as PPA have made consumers more wary, and the popularity of new low-carb diets have provided alternatives to appetite suppressants, claims the report.

However, there are some bright spots, including ephedra-free versions of the former bestsellers.

Steven Heffner, acquisitions editor for Kalorama Information, said: "Market leaders have come up with ephedra-free versions of their most popular products, and rather than fighting the low-carb trend, some marketers have learned to embrace it."

He cited Leiner's new Starch Away, a carbohydrate-blocking product, as one of the new innovations.

So far the market has been very receptive to these products, adds Heffner. The market share for these ephedra-free products has been growing at a very healthy rate while the share for the traditional ephedra-based giants have gone down considerably, he notes.

But a more active FDA could further trim the number of ingredients used in weight loss supplements. FDA chief Mark McClellan recently announced that the agency would be taking a closer look at the likes of bitter orange and usnic acid.

Related topics: Markets, Polyphenols, Vitamins & premixes

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