What do actresses Joan Collins, Melanie Griffith and Beverly Johnson have in common with at least six NFL players? They all take the same weight-loss supplement.
Strange as that may seem, in recent weeks players from multiple teams have been suspended for using Star Caps, a popular 20-year-old weight-loss supplement primarily used by women. Advertised as being a natural way to lose weight, ingredients are listed as papaya, valerian, garlic and corn spices.
Unfortunately, off-shore labs are unregulated and all these athletes have tested positive for Bumetanide, a diuretic banned by the NFL.
Bumetanide is a potent diuretic commonly known as “water pills.” They act at the level of the kidney where they promote the excretion of electrolytes and water. Patients with heart failure are especially prone to dangerous fluid retention in the lungs and other organs. This retained fluid causes dangerously high blood pressure. Bumetanide and other prescription diuretics can be life-saving in these instances.
The fluid loss from diuretics also results in temporary weight loss. Athletes, models and others who are required to perform at a certain weight are particularly attracted to diuretics. Wrestlers and boxers have used diuretics to drop weight, allowing a powerful athlete to compete at a lower weight class. Bodybuilders use diuretics for appearance.
Some diuretics, including Bumetanide, are used to mask the presence of steroids in urine.
Diuretic use also has many dangers. By lowering blood pressure and depleting the body of electrolytes, they can cause dizziness, fatigue, irregular heart rhythms, muscle cramps and eventually permanent kidney damage.
Diuretic use has resulted in the deaths of several young high school and collegiate wrestlers.
The makers of Star Caps deny that their product contains Bumetanide.
The lesson here is that athletes thinking of taking any supplement should check with the team’s athletic trainer who can arrange for it to be tested. By not taking advantage of this option, several NFL teams will be without key players.
Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital and in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC, in Norwich. E-mail him at email@example.com, listen to his podcasts, comment on his Healthy Sports blog or purchase his book at backushospital.org.