DMAA pre-workout and fat-melting supplements have been used by bodybuilders to obtain a sense of energy that many feel provides them with drive and mental focus. The supplement, however, is being criticized by regulators and others over its links to adverse physical reactions.
The Chicago Tribune notes that some experts say the chemical is marketed like a natural geranium substance but is, in fact, a pharmaceutical compound that requires more stringent federal oversight.
DMAA, or 1,3-dimethylamylamine or methylhexaneamine, received its patent decades ago as a nasal decongestant and is similar in composition to ephedrine and amphetamine, explained the Chicago Tribune. Today, DMAA can be found in over 200 products, including the brands Hemo Rage Black, Jack3d, and OxyElite Pro at stores like GNC and the Vitamin Shoppe.
Once ingested, DMAA reacts like adrenaline, a hormone that the body excretes when stressed, Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s a potentially dangerous ingredient, and manufacturers’ claims that it is naturally derived are unsubstantiated.” Cohen just asked suppliers to take DMMA supplements off the market in a recent commentary published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In April, the FDA directed 10 manufacturers of DMAA supplements to stop distributing their products until they can provide evidence of the additive’s safety. The manufacturers claim and promote their DMAA-containing products as possessing medical qualities that can help in weight loss. The agency believes DMAA causes a narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks, stroke, or even sudden death. The agency said that it does not consider synthetically produced DMAA to be a “dietary ingredient,” and that it has not been proven to be safe, said the Chicago Tribune.
DMAA-containing supplements have been implicated in the recent deaths of two U.S. soldiers who had traces of the chemical in their systems following their post-workout deaths on military bases. DMAA supplements have also been linked to other, less serious. complications sufficiently significant to warrant a warning letter from the FDA. Complications cited included panic attacks, dizziness, and seizures. Meanwhile, said the New York Times, the United States Army is investigating if DMAA is to blame in the soldiers’ deaths. Both died after suffering heart attacks when exercising, a spokesman for the Army’s assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told The Times. Although the Defense Department has removed all DMAA-containing products from military base stores—including over 100 GNCs—pending completion of an Army safety review, according to Army spokesman Peter J. Graves, the products remain on GNC shelves elsewhere, noted The Times.
USPlabs, which markets OxyElite Pro and Jack3d claims no medical evidence exists proving its products are dangerous when used correctly, adding that it stands by its products’ safety, said The Times. USPlabs is run by Jacobo E. Geissler, who, in 2003 , before he started USPlabs, was criminally charged in Texas for purchasing illegal steroids. GNC spokesman, Greg Miller, told The Times that GNC was “unaware of any scientific or medical evidence which calls the safety of DMAA into question.”
In Canada, the government health agency classifies DMAA as an amphetamine like drug, and prohibits its sale as an ingredient in dietary supplements. Yet, GNC and the Vitamin Shoppe, refuse to pull DMAA supplements and continue to sell the products online and in physical stores.
Companies maintain DMAA is a product that exists in nature, derived from the geranium plant; however, the FDA challenges these claims. A prior CNBC report indicated that at least seven studies have failed to show that DMAA is derived from geranium oil. In January, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the only national trade association focused on herbs and herbal products, informed its members that DMAA should not be labeled as a product of geranium oil.
In February, GNC was one of several companies named in a California class action lawsuit that accused it and other defendants of making misleading claims regarding Cellucor’s C-4 Extreme supplement, which contains DMAA. The lawsuit alleges GNC and other defendants failed to disclose that DMAA is wholly synthetic, manufactured, and not derived from the geranium plant.