It looks like DMAA, the ingredient in OxyElite Pro and Jack3d that may have caused the deaths of two soldiers, is gone for good, after supplement companies failed to produce any evidence proving the “naturalness” and safety of DMAA.
What Is DMAA?
DMAA is short for “dimethylamylamine”, a stimulant related to amphetamine and ephedrine.
It rose to fame when in 2006 a ban on using ephedrine as a dietary supplement went into effect and DMAA was discovered to be a rather close alternative. It became a popular stimulant in fitness and party circles, but reports of side effects followed soon after. The first case of a clinical overdose of DMAA didn’t take that long to surface either and involved a 21-year old man who developed cerebral haemorrhage (a rupture of blood vessels in the brain) after ingesting about half a gram of DMAA.
All that, however, didn’t yet prompt anyone into action. Things only hit the roof when the U.S. Army, following the deaths of two soldiers, in February banned Jack3d and OxyElite Pro from its stores. Both soldiers had been using these supplements and, according to an Army spokesman, the Army was also aware of other cases where serious side effects occured.
DMAA From Geranium Flowers?
If you read my above original article from February, you may recall that already then I wondered why a substance that very much acts like Speed could legally be in nutritional supplements. Even the World Anti Doping Agency banned dimethylamylamine already three years ago (PDF).
It goes like this and is a class A example of why I am weary of supplements: the supplement manufacturers using DMAA in their products argued that it naturally occurs in geranium flowers. Because if it did and if geranium supplements were legally sold before 1994 (and geranium oil was), you could use and sell geranium components for human consumption.
That didn’t mean that they really got the DMAA from geranium flowers, mind you, but that they could legally label the DMAA they artificially produced as geranium oil and use it.
It gets better: the entire geranium argument was hinged on a single 1996 study, published only in Chinese and in a now already defunct journal, that claimed to have found DMAA in geranium plants (Ping Z, Jun Q, Qing L. A study on the chemical constituents of geranium oil. J Guizhou Inst Tech. 1996;25(1):82-85)).
And The Mountain Moves
It took a long time until someone finally felt it necessary to really look into this. Only in July 2011 Health Canada published a review of the available research on DMAA and its connection to geranium flowers. It found that half a dozen reliable studies couldn’t find a trace of DMAA in them. In the US, the FDA only got into action in late April 2012, after extensive media reports on those soldiers’ deaths made the rounds. Then they finally asked supplement companies to either provide some better evidence on the geranium connection or to prove that DMAA is safe.
That the FDA now accumulated 42 case reports on side effects of DMAA, that the 10 companies they contacted failed to provide an answer, that DMAA now is effectively banned, that the EU authorities are set to follow in the footsteps of the FDA, all this is little condolence to those who trusted in the safety mechanisms of food and drug approval.
The message is clear: you want to be safe, you better do your own research.
Picture courtesy of “Laitche“.