CODE ORANGE FOR DIETERS A small study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, may leave your heart racing -- over diet pills that left hearts racing.

A single dose of weight-loss supplements containing bitter orange extract increased participants' heart rates by an average of 11 to 16 beats per minute, according to the study, which wasappears in the American Journal of Medicine. The researchers tested two bitter orange products, which have become popular as weight-loss aids since ephedra was banned last year because of its links to heart disease and stroke. One brand of pills also raised users' blood pressure, by 7 to 12 percent.

"These findings indicate that ephedra-free dietary supplements could have some of the same adverse health effects," said Christine Haller, an assistant professor of medicine and lead author of the paper.

"Consumers should be aware that ephedra-free dietary supplements have not been extensively tested for safety, and the health effects are not well known," Haller said. The researchers said these effects might be of particular concern to people most likely to use the pills: overweight people who have other health problems.

CLOT-BUSTING DANGERS The common practice of giving heart attack patients a clot-busting drug before planned angioplasty could be dangerous, a new study suggests.

Many doctors give the clot-dissolver hoping it will make the artery-widening operation more successful. But the study found that more patients died in the month after the procedure if given the drug. Experts said the findings may prompt doctors to drop the tactic.

-- From News Services