Photo: Barry Palevitz
 HELP OR HINDRANCE? Ephedra-containing products like those pictured above are coming under increased scrutiny.

You've probably seen the ads in the supermarket checkout aisle, or on radio and TV. "I lost 63 pounds with Hydroxycut," screams the headline in Cosmopolitan, above pictures of a woman going from corpulent to bathing-beauty trim in 19 weeks. "Diet Fuel changes the shape of your life," claims another ad, this time sporting an ab-flashing model in boxing gloves. Some may laugh, but to weight-conscious girls and women in a society that treasures thinness, reading "have you ever looked at your body and wanted to cry" hits home.

College student Lauren Mylacraine started hearing about the products in 10th grade. "They were pretty popular," she admits. Another student, speaking anonymously, claimed the pills were so tempting, "girls got hooked," some even taking them with their mothers. Morgan Pinkston used ephedra for...

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