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“Natural” doesn’t always mean “healthy” or “safe” – and this notion, of adding naturally-occurring compounds to weight loss and strength-building supplements, resulted in dimethylamylamine (DMAA) ending up on the market without the FDA’s approval. While added to weight loss, energy, and endurance-building supplements as of 2005, DMAA has been associated with at least six reported deaths and 100 more illnesses, and has since been removed from shelves and taken out of products.

In 2013, the FDA issued a statement concerning supplements made with DMAA, citing 86 reports of illnesses ranging from heart and nervous system problems to psychiatric disorders. Their warning, sent to maker USPlabs, required all products to be destroyed and taken off shelves. Certain nutrition stores and websites continue to sell these products in spite of the FDA’s warning.

What is DMAA?

A naturally-occurring compound, DMAA does not require the FDA’s approval to be added to products. However, while associated with weight loss and muscle-building supplements, the substance had been used as an inhaled nasal decongestant in the 1940s; at the time, its effect has been describes as similar to amphetamines.

DMAA alone narrows blood vessels and arteries, leading to a range of cardiovascular problems. The effects tend to worsen when combined with caffeine – a common ingredient in such supplements as Jack3d and OxyElite Pro. Patients taking these two substances together experienced elevated blood pressure, heart attacks, liver and kidney failure, loss of consciousness, seizures, cold sweats, rapid heartbeats, shortness of breath, and tightening in chest.

Aside from these two commonly-found supplements, DMAA had been added to the following products: Nutrex Research Lipo-6 Black and Hemo-Rage Black Powder, iSatori PWR, Muscletech NeuroCore and HydroxyStim, Fahrenheit Nutrition Lean EFX, Muscle Warfare Napalm, SNI Nitric Blast, BIORhythm SSIN Juice, MuscleMeds Code Red, SEI MethylHex, and Gaspari Nutrition Spirodex.

Since the FDA’s warning, DMAA is now illegal. Products like Jack3d have been reformulated and rebranded to exclude the substance.

Legal Concerns

Although supplements and powders designed to assist with weight loss or building muscle started having DMAA included less than 10 years ago, reports of deaths surfaced in 2011. Associated with the deaths of two Army soldiers, U.S. military bases pulled the product – although stores like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe continued to keep it on shelves and online.

The prescription stimulant-like effects further resulted in world sports organizations banning the anything with DMAA, calling it an illegal enhancer. Certain European nations also banned DMAA from being added to performance and weight loss supplements.

Lawsuits in the U.S. have since listed USPlabs and any sellers as defendants, citing deceptive advertisement practices or negligence in keeping DMAA-containing supplements on shelves. As of 2012, three class action lawsuits were pending in U.S. courts.

Although supplements are no doctor-prescribed treatment, those taking them to shave off a few pounds or bulk up do not expect to experience symptoms of a heart attack, seizures, or other extreme health conditions. Profits over safety may have kept DMAA-containing supplements on the market longer than should have been in the U.S., and because of this, both the manufacturer and retailers need to be held accountable.

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