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The Dangers of Metabolife 356

Meegan Peery

Is There a Need for Metabolife 356 ?:


The term obese implies that one is very "fat", extremely overweight, and often carries negative connotations. However the scientific definition describes obese in a non-judgmental way that simply expresses ones weight as a number, a certain body mass index (BMI). Since the early 1980s, BMI has been the medical standard for obtaining obesity measurements ( Government researchers and scientists developed the BMI to take height into account in weight measurements. It is important to realize that one cannot determine if one is obese based solely on ones weight. For example, if one weighs 145 pounds, is he or she considered to be obese? The answer to this question lies in also asking the personís height. The answers would be different for someone who is 5í1" tall, 5í6", and 6í.

Today, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight and the criteria for being considered obese consists of a BMI of 30 or more. In order to calculate oneís BMI a simple mathematical formula is used (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared). According to these conventions a person who is 5í2" and weighs 165 has a BMI of 30.2, and is obese. Someone who is 5í6" and weighs 165 has a BMI of 26.6, and is overweight, but not obese. Someone who is 6í and weighs 165 has a BMI of 22.4, and is in the healthy BMI range. The following link will take you to a website that calculates your BMI for you,

Obesity in America:

Sustained caloric imbalance is becoming the norm in America. Forty million American adults weigh 20% above their ideal body weight, classifying them as obese and at high risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Obesity is prevalent in all sexes, races, and ages ( The fact must be faced; obesity is increasing in numbers. However, it is interesting to note that as the number of overweight individuals increases, so too does the various methods of reducing caloric and fat intake. In todayís busy society Americans are willing to try almost any weight loss product on the market in order to reach their goal of "thinness. Americans are turning to herbal supplements in record numbers as a means of attaining their dietary needs and goals. One of the best selling herbal supplements on the market is Metabolife 356 (

What is Metabolife?

Metabolife 356 is an herbal supplement whose purpose is to increase weight loss by burning fat and increasing energy levels, ( Simply put, Metabolife 356 raises the bodyís metabolism and creates a thermogenic (increase in metabolism and fat burning) response. Metabolife 356 is one of Americaís best-selling herbal supplements, but where did it come from?

The Origins of Metabolife 356

Michael J. Ellis developed the herbal supplement in the early 1990s as a means to help his father counter the fatigue of cancer treatment. Ellis, a former California police officer has had no medical experience; however, he was linked to a methamphetamine lab bust in 1990 (Cowley & Reno, 1999). Methamphetamine is also known as meth and is an illegal street drug chemically related to ephedrine. In 1992 while still on probation, Ellis launched his first product Fosslip as a bodybuilding formula containing 18 vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts including an ephedrine derivative. Fosslip did not sell, so in 1995 Ellis renamed the supplement and began to market it as a weight loss aid (Cowley & Reno, 1999). Can you guess what this supplement is called? You guessed it Metabolife 356 .



According to Metabolife International, safety is their primary concern; "Metabolife 356 is shown to be safe through independent testing by two laboratories. Our products are also regularly tested to confirm the active ingredients are present as indicated on the product label"( The two laboratories that performed the Metabolife 356 experiments are not named. Without the names of these two laboratories how is a potential customer able to verify Metabolife Internationals claims? The answer is one cannot.

Although not much testing has been done specifically on Metabolife 356 , two well-established Universities, Vanderbilt University and Columbia University have conducted two small studies, which have established that more studies need to be done to test the effectiveness and safety of Metabolife 356 .

Vanderbilt University:

In one experiment researchers and Vanderbilt University clocked the metabolic rates of 17 patients, once while they were taking the Metabolife supplement and once while they were taking a placebo, in a 24-hour period. The results indicated that the subjectís metabolic rates increased slightly with Metabolife 356 ( While this study at first glance appears to offer credibility toward Metabolife Internationalís claim that it does in fact increase ones metabolism, it is important to look at the sample size and trials of the experiment. The sample size of this experiment is very small and will therefore produce results that may not be representative of the entire population. The number of trials in the experiment is also small leaving a large margin of error available and eliminating the possibility of studying side effects produced by Metabolife 356 . Considering both of these aspects the results of this experiment are not conclusive to either stating that Metabolife 356 increases oneís metabolism or not. This experiment also does not discuss the risks or side effects of Metabolife 356 so further studies are needed.

Columbia University:

Researchers at Columbia University performed a study in which volunteers who took Metabolife 356 for eight weeks lost more weight then those taking a placebo. However, this study was also not large or long enough to prove that Metabolife356 was effective. Plus, this study also raised questions about the safety of Metabolife 356 . The patients on Metabolife 356 were more likely to experience jitteriness, insomnia, and heart palpitations, as well as increased blood pressure. Since Metabolife 356 has been shown to raise blood pressure it is important to be cautious if using Metabolife 356 to treat obesity. Typically obesity is treated with medication to lower blood pressure not raise it. This study provides information that questions the safety of Metabolife 356 .

Metabolife International also claims that the medical safety studies performed on Metabolife 356 by two independent and unknown laboratories were supervised by a Board certifies "M.D., Ph.D., Pharmacologist, Toxicologist, and former president of the American Board of Toxicology" ( Once again individuals are not provided with the names of these experts, allowing for no further contact. This again should signal warning signs. In conclusion Metabolife 356 has not proven itself to be a safe way to lose weight.


Metabolife International also claims that Metabolife 356 consists of only the finest natural herbs gathered from over 12 countries of the world and that all Metabolife International products are manufactured in the United States at government inspected facilities. Of these natural herbs, scientific studies have been done that show that the ingredients listed in herbal supplements do not always agree with the ingredients actually in the herbal supplements (Gurley, Gardner, White, & Wang, 1998). Therefore, it is important to be skeptical when reading information about Metabolife 356 that is provided by the company itself, since their motivation might not be to always tell the truth, but instead to sell their product. Another factor to consider is that most of the ingredients said to be in Metabolife 356 are herbs that are not well known. I recommend researching these herbs to know both the benefits and consequences of taking these herbs. Metabolife International also claims to be "a leader in quality with every product meeting the highest standards of the industry. Metabolife 356 was the first herbal product to achieve the A.C.E.R.I.S. Quality Assurance Seal" ( The A.C.E.R.I.S. Quality Assurance Seal is not explained on any of the many Metabolife International product sites including, and If one is not able to known exactly what an award is, how can one be assured that this is a quality product.

Marketing Appeal of Metabolife 356

Personal Testimonies:

Metabolife International provides web access to listen to real people share their success stories and see the results they achieved using Metabolife 356 ( Personal testimonies are an effective way to produce positive images of Metabolife 356 ; they are not necessarily a reliable source of information. Personal testimonies are an example of what has been called the vividness effect. Metabolife International is trying to grab potential customerís attention by telling the stories of individuals who have used Metabolife 356 . Instead of focusing on scientific studies Metabolife International allows potential customers to identify with the individuals telling their own stories. Potential customers are more likely to remember the positive stories individuals have shared which then increases the potential customers likelihood of using Metabolife 356 themselves. Remember to always be skeptical of personal testimonies.

Easy and Alternative way to Loss Weight:

Metabolife International plays on the American populationís obsession with being thin in an obese society; "We all have tried dieting to achieve our weight loss goals. This generally makes us feel hungry, tired and sluggish. Usually our will power gives out long before we reach our desired weight" ( This statement is meant to let individuals battling with weight control known that Metabolife International realizes that it is hard to lose weight in todayís society of fast food and limited time for exercise. Metabolife International implies that individuals should not waste their time on diets that result in slim to none results, but instead turn to Metabolife 356 as a way to get maximum results with minimal time invested. Metabolife International also offers tips for optimum results. These tips include eat healthy nutritious foods, eat smaller portions, avoid alcohol and refined sugars, and to exercise regularly. They suggest, " Eat health, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products are excellent choices. Consuming smaller meals with healthy between meal snacks. Avoid refined sugars, alcohol, pastries and white flour products. Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week"( All of these tips are typical of a healthy lifestyle that is used by many individuals who do not take Metabolife 356 . If Metabolife International expects one to eat smaller healthy meals and exercise more how can they conclude that it is Metabolife 356 or just a better lifestyle that is producing weight loss? They cannot.

Product Guarantee:

Metabolife International offers a return policy if you are not satisfied with your product. A product guarantee often increases the likelihood that a person will buy and try the product because they know that they can return it if they are not satisfied risk free. I undoubtedly believe that this marketing technique increases sales of Metabolife 356 .


Metabolife 356 is available by various methods such as, the internet, kiosks in malls, retail stores, and individual distributors. Since Metabolife 356 is readily available and easy to attain more people are likely to purchase and try it.

Financial Gain:

Metabolife International states that Metabolife 356 can help you physically and financially. Metabolife International offers income opportunities as a Metabolife Independent Distributor ( Some people are likely to become distributors and push Metabolife 356 simply for their own financial gain. This will increase Metabolife 356 availability creating the possibility of more sales for Metabolife International.

Giving Back to the Community:

Metabolife International formed the Metabolife Foundation in 1999, and created several community service projects geared toward "changing lives for the better" ( Metabolife International states this on their website in order to create a positive self-image of a business that is concerned with the "common man". With a positive image potential customers are more likely to believe that Metabolife International is a trustworthy and honorable business; therefore, their products must be trustworthy and safe too.

All of the marketing techniques Metabolife 356 utilizes are based on creating a positive self-image and convenience, not on scientific evidence.

Ingredients in Metabolife 356

Serving Size 1 Caplet
Amount Per Serving % Daily Value

Vitamin E .........................................Ö6 i.u............................20%
Magnesium (as Magnesium Chelate).Ö75 mg..........................18%
Zinc (as Zinc Chelate)........................Ö5 mg...........................33%
Chromium (as Chromium Picolinate)....75 mcg........................62%
Proprietary Blend ..................................728 mg
Guarana Concentrate (seed) .........................................ÖÖ...*
(40 mg naturally-occurring caffeine) ..............................ÖÖ...*
Ma Huang Concentrate (aerial part) ................................ÖÖ*
(12 mg naturally-occurring ephedrines) .........................ÖÖ...*
Bee Pollen ..............................................................................*
Ginseng (root) .........................................................................*
Ginger (root) ...........................................................................*
Lecithin ...................................................................................*
Bovine Complex ......................................................................*
Damiana (leaf) .........................................................................*
Sarsaparilla (root) ..............................................................Ö..*
Golden Seal (aerial part) .....................................................Ö.*
Nettles (leaf) ............................................................................*
Gotu Kola (aerial part) ........................................................Ö.*
Spirulina Algae .....................................................................Ö*
Royal Jelly ...............................................................................*

*Daily Value Not Established
Other Ingredients: Methocel, silica, croscarmellose sodium, magnesium stearate.

Predominant Ingredients:

Ma Huang (Ephedra):

Metabolife 356 and other dietary supplements such as, Metab-Rx Ultra, Easy Trim, Advocare, Epitonin, and Ripped Fuel, contain ephedrine. Ephedrine is also called Ma Huang, Ephedra, epitonin, and Chinese ephedra. Ephedra is an herb, which grows mainly in Mongolia and the bordering regions of China. It has been used for at least 5,000 years in China in the treatment of asthma and as a natural decongestant and antihistamine. The active ingredients in ephedra are naturally occurring ephedra alkaloids, the most important one being ephedrine ( Both ephedra and ephedrine stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, causing vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the lining of the nosed. They also dilate the bronchial tubes and stimulate the heart. Ephedrine has the ability to open up the adrenergic receptor sites found in the heart and lungs, which then increases the metabolic rate and caloric consumption. The net results is release of fatty acids from stored fat cells and a quicker consumption of the fat into energy ( Ephedrine alkaloids are amphetamine-like compounds used in over the counter and prescription drugs with potentially lethal stimulant effects on the central nervous system and heart. These serious effects, include hypertension (elevated blood pressure), heart palpitation, nerve damage, muscle injury, psychosis, stroke, and memory loss, heart rate irregularities, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, and death (


Used by Brazilian Indians in a manner similar to coffee or tea. It contains an exceptionally high level of caffeine.

When ephedra is mixed with Guarana, the chance of elevating blood pressure increases significantly. Most health care professionals strongly recommend that ephedra products should not contain caffeine (

The Dangers of Metabolife 356


One of the side effects of thermogenesis is a slight increase in pulse rate and an elevation of blood pressure. Ephedra is therefore not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure, heart problems, and may cause problems for people with insomnia, pregnant mothers, and those who suffer from panic attacks (


In a 2000 article in American Family Physician, Louisiana State University researchers Morelli and Zoorob review the role that natural products can play in the treatment of obesity. Morelli and Zoorob begin by reviewing the past studies done on the herbal supplement Metabolife 356 . The studies that are discussed include the ones done at Vanderbilt University and Columbia University. To find a clear relationship between herbal supplements that contain ephedrine and caffeine and obesity Morelli and Zoorob reviewed two studies. The first study was conducted as a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study of 180 obese patients over a 24-week period. Results of this study concluded that weight loss with a combination of ephedrine and caffeine (20-200mg) was greater than with a placebo. Another study found that 54% of patients treated with 20-200mg of ephedrine experienced central nervous system side effects, especially agitation. Morelli and Zoorob also reported that another study that side effects of ephedrine and caffeine combination increased blood pressure and heart rate. Morelli and Zoorob concluded their review by stating that although weight loss effects of ephedra and guarana have not been completely studied, everyone should be aware of the beneficial and adverse effects of these diet aids.


In a 1995 letter to the editor in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Robin R. Capwell reviewed sympathomimetic drugs, such as ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, in association with manic episodes. Capwell determined that a 45-year-old man with no history of psychiatric illness or substance abuse, who had undergone personality and behavioral changes in one month. This letter reviewed the findings that he was experiencing hypertension and after three days of discontinuing the use of an ephedrine supplement his hypertension decreased to normal. Capwell concluded that intoxication with ephedrine could occur in the context of incidental exposure for people who take weight loss or other health benefits.

Karen Ruiz purchased a bottle of an herbal supplement equivalent to Metabolife 356 . She began taking the supplement as a means to shed post-pregnancy weight and to increase her energy. Right away she began to see results; she was loosing weight and staying up for almost 24 hours. However, by day 6 Ruiz, with no history of mental illness, began to hear the voice of God. After seeking medical help she discontinued use of the herbal supplement. Within months of cutting out the herbal supplement Ruiz regained her grip on reality, but has since struggled with bipolar disorder, suggesting that herbal supplements with ephedrine and caffeine can have permanent effects of mental disorders (

A single 27-year-old male Marine sergeant was brought to a military medical center for having suicidal thoughts and irritability. Although he has no history of suicidal tendencies, elicit drug or alcohol use, he did have a history of depression. This male was against taking prescription medications; however, he was taking two ephedra-containing supplements to improve his workout performance. At the time of his initial visit to the medical center he did not share his use of herbal supplements with the doctor. For five months treatment was not affective, his irritability and agitation persisted even with clonazepam. When questioned directly he revealed a two-year history of regular use of ephedra supplements. When he stopped ephedra use his mood returned to baseline and did not face further psychiatric problems. This case study effectively demonstrates the importance of physicians and patients discussing herbal supplements (Jacobs & Hirsch, 2000).


Anne Marie Capati, a 37-year-old who suffered a fatal stroke after taking an ephedra and caffeine supplement. In 1998 Capati joined a gym to work out and lose a few post-pregnancy pounds. She also paid extra for the services of a trainer who was also said to be a nutritionist. The employee had Capati taking several different dietary supplements. The trainer also knew that she has high blood pressure and was taking prescription medicine. One day Capati suffered a massive bleed in the brain while working out and died later that same day (

Amphetamine-like Stimulus:

Glennon and Young continued with their study of amphetamine-related drugs of abuse in this study. Here, they have already determined that amphetamine stimulus generalizes both to ephedrine and caffeine. In this study Glennon and Young was to determine if oral administration of either ephedrine or caffeine would result in stimulus generalization when given to rats trained to discriminate intraperitoneal administered amphetamine. The second goal of this work was to evaluate the effect of oral administration of an herbal supplement, Herbal XTC. The animals used in this study were six of the original animals used in the earlier study. The rats were trained to discriminate intraperitoneal injections of amphetamine. The results confirmed their earlier findings that both ephedrine and caffeine are capable of producing amphetamine-appropriate response. This is the first demonstration that a commercially available ephedrine-containing herbal preparation can produce an effect similar to that produced by amphetamine in animals (Glennon & Young, 1999).

Ephedra Overdose:

Ten healthy subjects were enrolled in a randomized, crossover study with four phases. The subjects were given one of four products during each phase: Escalation, Excel, Up Your Gas, and Ephedrine capsule. At given times and under restricted conditions blood was drawn for analysis. The results indicated that when ephedrine is administered as unprocessed Ephedra, typical of dietary supplements its absorption and disposition characteristics are similar to those observed for a single-ingredient ephedrine capsule. When comparing the results of this study with previously published studies, it appeared that the administration of ephedra herb with other "natural" stimulants had little bearing on the distribution and elimination of ephedrine. In conclusion, botanical ephedrine did not appear to differ significantly from conventional ephedrine. However, the question still remains as to why products containing ephedra have been associated with high incidence of morbidity and morality. The authors of this study mention two factors to account for ephedra toxicity. First, although most herbal supplements with ephedra have labels that indicate how much ephedra is contained in each dosage, this does not account for the amount of ephedrine in each dose. Ephedra species vary in their ephedrine alkaloid content and this difference can produce products with varying amounts of ephedrine. Secondly, consumers are lead to believe that "natural medicines" are safe. Caution and moderation are strongly encouraged when using any herbal supplement and especially with ephedra (Gurley, Gardner, White, & Wang, 1998).

Why is Metabolife 356 Still Being Sold?

Although evidence supports the notion that Metabolife 356 is dangerous, it is still being sold. Over 800 injuries have been reported by users and doctors to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including more than 50 deaths ( This is because the FDA has little control over herbal supplements such as ephedra. The reason behind this is the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DESHA).


DESHA is a powerful legislation act that was passed in 1994, that says that dietary supplements must be assumed to be safe unless proved otherwise ( This means that companies are free to sell their products until the FDA can prove they are dangerous. Protection under DESHA has increased the herbal industryís growth because supplement makers can spend millions of dollars on marketing instead of investing this money into research and testing.

It is also important to note that under this legislation, there is no standardization of manufacturing of herbs or supplements. Although many in the supplement industry are policing themselves, it is important to be aware that supplements often contain varying amounts of active ingredients (Morelli & Zoorob, 2000).

Guidelines to Remember With Herbal Supplements:

Do not take if pregnant or lactating

Have realistic expectations when using herbal supplements

Purchase products from reliable producers

Be wary of studies if they are not peer-reviewed

Research a supplement before you take it

Understand the health risks of an herbal supplement before you use one

Talk to a physician before taking an herbal supplement

Remember the manufacture of an herbal supplement is trying to sell the product, so his "facts" might not be 100% factual

Do not believe personal testimonies, they are not scientific


Metabolife 356 not only increases ones metabolic rate, it also increases blood pressure, heart rate, and above mentioned conditions. With all of these negative findings it is important for people to avoid Metabolife and other ephedra and caffeine containing supplements. These herbal supplements are a dangerous and deadly means of weigh loss. It is especially important for people with high blood pressure; a symptom of obesity, to be very cautious and avoid Metabolife 356, since Metabolife 356 creates high blood pressure itself. In conclusion the overall benefit of using Metabolife 356 as a means of weight control do not outweigh the costs, which in some cases is death.


Capwell R., (1995). Ephedrine-Induced Mania From an Herbal Diet Supplement. American
    Journal of Psychiatry, 4, 647-49.

Cowley, G., & Reno, J. (1999, October). Mad About Metabolife. Newsweek, 51-55.

Glennon R.A., & Young Richard, (1999). Amphetamine-Stimulus Generalization to an Herbal
    Ephedrine Produce. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 4, 655-658.

Gurley B.J., Gardner S.F., White L.M., & Wang P., (1998) Ephedrine Pharmacokinetics After
    the Ingestion of Nutritional Supplements Containing ephedra sinica. Therapeutic Drug
    Monitoring, 4, 439-445.

Jacobs, K.M., & Hirsch K.A., (2000) Psychiatric Complications of Ma-Huang.
    Psychosomatics, 41, 58-62.

Morelli V., & Zoorob R.J., (2000) Alternative Therapies: Part I. Depression, Diabetes,
    Obesity. American Family Physician, 5, 1051-1063.


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