Ethan A. Huff
May 9, 2013
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a new safety warning about an ingredient sometimes added to fitness supplements that it claims could cause health problems in certain individuals. According to a recent public announcement, the FDA has received complaints from a handful of consumers over the years linking the nervous system stimulant 1,3 dimethylamylamine, also known as DMAA, to heart attacks and even death, hence the need for a safety warning.
Even though a definitive causal link has admittedly not been established by the FDA or any other agency between DMAA and the aforementioned conditions, the FDA still saw fit to issue a release urging members of the public to avoid supplements that contain the ingredient. DMAA is apparently so dangerous in the eyes of the FDA that a large image bearing the caption, “Warning! DMAA … Risks may include HEART ATTACK & more …,” can be seen on the FDA announcement page.
“As of April 11, 2013, FDA had received 86 reports of illnesses and death associated with supplements containing DMAA,” states the announcement. “The majority are voluntary reports from consumers and healthcare practitioners. The illnesses reported include heart problems and nervous system or psychiatric disorders. Note, however, that a report is not proof that the product actually caused the problem.”
Sounds serious, right? Except for that last line, which basically negates the validity of the entire DMAA warning. The FDA likely receives hundreds or even thousands of complaints every day about all sorts of things, but does not necessarily issue safety warnings for all of them. So why DMAA, and why now?
FDA loves to target dietary supplements, but almost never focuses enough attention on deadly pharmaceuticals
Even though DMAA was technically developed by drug company Eli Lilly back in the 1940s, according to The New York Times (NYT), it is derived from nothing more than the natural oils found in geranium plants. It is commonly used as a natural energy booster and focus enhancer — and as far as we can tell, there are no legitimate dangers associated with its use, and it has been safely used as an ingredient in a variety of fitness supplements for many years.
But since it is an unregulated dietary supplement and not an FDA-approved drug, DMAA is apparently an easy target for the FDA. Despite the fact that the agency has not officially recalled supplements containing DMAA, its latest scare campaign urging people not to take it has prompted virtually every manufacturer that once used the substance to pull it from their product formulations.
“Reality is, it’s been 15 months (that) the military has been investigating DMAA – they found nothing that came back,” said GNC CEO Joe Fortunato during a recent conference call. Back in 2011, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) pulled all products containing DMAA from military base stores after two soldiers who had been taking DMAA-containing supplements died. Their deaths, however, were never proven to be caused by DMAA.
“We went to them three times, obviously concerned that if there was any safety issue, we wanted the product off the table. (But) they have nothing,” added Fortunato. “If anybody has any impact (from using GNC products), that is something that nobody is ever happy about, but it happens occasionally, far more often in pharmaceutical industries.”
Fortunato brings up an important point – pharmaceutical drugs kill at least 100,000 people every single year, according to a study out of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) back in 2000. Clearly this is far more significant that the five deaths believed, but not proven, to be linked to DMAA, and yet the FDA has issued no such coercive warnings about pharmaceutical drugs.
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This article was posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:18 am