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Are Supplements Safe for your Health?


Posted on Oct 10, 2014

Many doctors recommend supplements and vitamins. But are they good for your health? A new study shows that some supplements, particularly diet supplements may not be good for you.

Reuters reports on an untested ingredient found in some supplements. The ingredient could be hurting the health of consumers.

The stimulant, which experts say is probably dangerous, is found in twelve different American supplements. It has never been tested on humans. The stimulant is being called DMBA. It could potentially cause heart problems.

Researchers are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to take action on the stimulant issue. The study’s lead author, Dr. Cohen from Harvard Medical School, said, “All the FDA would need to do is look at the labels of the products that we studied and they could immediately see . . . that this is not an ingredient that was previously in supplements.” He found it surprising that the ingredient is listed on multiple supplement labels.  

How was the study conducted?

Researchers searched the Internet for dietary supplements that advertised ingredients with names identical to DMBA's full chemical name, 2-amino-4-methylpentane or 2-amino-4-methylpentanamine. The words looked for included AMP Citrate, 4-amino-2-methylpentane citrate, 4-amino-2-pentanamine, Pentergy and 4-AMP. Experts purchased each of the fourteen products that met their criteria and sent one bottle of each to two separate labs for analysis, inspection and research.

Experts found that twelve of the supplement products had DMBA (an abbreviation for 1,3-dimethylbutylamine). The synthetic stimulant is almost the same composition as a compound known as DMAA, which the Food and Drug Administration said can lead to heart attacks. The FDA told manufacturers in 2012 to stop selling DMAA-containing supplements. So now companies are manufacturing supplements with DMBA and many people are buying them, as a number of them are actually doctor recommended.

Dr. Cohen said, “This is probably just a fraction of the supplements in the U.S. that contain this new designer stimulant. People with supplements that use or include the name AMP on their labels should return the products to where they were originally purchased. Right now we have to avoid these pre-workout supplements and avoid these weight-loss supplements altogether until the FDA can better regulate it.”

The experts reported that fourteen types of supplements tested for DMBA in the new study were mostly marketed as sports or weight loss supplements or brain enhancers. The report came out in the Drug and Analysis journal.

“In September, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), which is the trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, sent a letter to the FDA flagging the marketing of AMP Citrate as the next DMAA or as a DMAA alternative. CRN is concerned about the potential dangers to consumers who may be using possible unsafe supplements containing Amp Citrate,” according to Reuters.

What does the FDA say?

CRN is worried about the potential dangers to consumers who are utilizing these unsafe supplements containing Amp Citrate marketing. Our pre-market authority for dietary supplements is limited to the requirement for NDI sending out a message. They also said they take this matter seriously and are considering the next steps.

“Mister said retailers have a responsibility for what they put on their shelves. He added that the FDA already has the authority and regulatory power to immediately act on these supplements. People with supplements that use or include the name AMP on their labels should return the products to where they were originally purchased,” according to Reuters.

CBS news also reports on the study.

The stimulant in question is being called a chemical cousin of the one that has been banned by the FDA for causing heart attacks.

What do the manufacturers claim?

They say that the stimulant is derived from tea. But the study’s authors say there is no evidence that the stimulant comes from a plant.

Dr. Narula of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York commented on the study telling CBS News,

“It's similar to amphetamines, which have cardiac and neuropsychiatric effects, and it is a cousin to a stimulant called DMAA that was pulled from the market in 2012 for having 86 adverse events recorded that include heart attack, stroke, seizure and death. The problem isn't just the one particular stimulant, but that it’s systemic across the entire supplement industry.”

Supplements are controversial because they are not screened the way medications are yet doctors still recommend them. And most people do not understand the fact that they are not screened most of the time. The FDA can recall dangerous products but it has to wait until the product reaches the market.

“Dr. Narula said there needs to be a task force to ensure more oversight and better regulation,” according to CBS.

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