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FDA Issues Warning about DMAA

Started By: RDGlatter, MD, Emergency Medicine, 3:18PM Apr 12, 2013

The FDA issued a warning on April 11th against use of DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) in energy drinks and supplements.  The FDA has received 86 reports thus far associated with weight loss and muscle building supplements containing DMAA since 2007. These are voluntary reports from health care providers and consumers linking DMAA use to seizures, arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, panic attacks, and deaths, along with exacerbation of psychiatric conditions.  There is not a cause and effect relationship-only an association at this time.

DMAA is essentially an amphetamine-like compound, and a research letter to JAMA Internal Medicine in 2012 called for a ban on the compound. It is known in higher doses to elevate blood pressure, and could be especially dangerous in patients with known hypertension. It was used in the 1940s for allergic rhinitis, but apparently taken off the market in 1983 after concerns developed regarding safety of the product.

USPLabs, maker of Oxy Elite Pro and Jack3D, which contain DMAA have made claims to be fat-burning (Oxyelite Pro) as well as performance-enhancing (Jack 3D) are at the center of legal inquiries after significant amounts of DMAA were found in 2 soldiers who died after use of the product.

The FDA has apparently warned companies known to be using DMAA in dietary supplements that such use is illegal. This is because the FDA considers it a new dietary supplement which needs to be tested for safe use before it can be approved as an additive in energy drinks and other such products. 

Companies have claimed that DMAA is a natural dietary ingredient from the geranium plant, previously used in tea infusions and from other studies using geranium oil.

Interestingly, most geranium plants do not contain much DMAA. These companies are essentially trying to sell these energy drinks by creating a new ingredient or drug, and trying to say that is only a plant extract.

ER visits related to energy drinks nearly doubled between 2007-2011, usually due to heart issues, such as elevated blood pressure, palpitations, or panic attacks related to caffeine. It turns out teenagers as well as young adults are often the target of marketing efforts for such products which contain large amounts of caffeine and potentially DMAA.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), nearly one third of teenagers consume energy drinks. The AAP has advised pediatricians to advise their patients not to use these products and energy drinks, since they contain potentially high amounts if stimulants such as DMAA and caffeine, which can elevate the possibility for developing dehydration, palpitations or dangerous arrhythmias, or insomnia.

Many patients say that the energy drinks it get them "revved up", or "pumped-up" with better workouts. Some say they can even lose weight.  The bottom line is that people often get addicted to caffeine which is added to the DMAA, and often develop headaches if they stop using it abruptly.

We do know that caffeine is safe in lower dose ranges from 100-300 mg a day, which is typically contained in several cups of coffee. Unfortunately, when you get beyond 500 mg and over 1000 mg additional side effects such as palpitations, anxiety and dizziness can result. When stimulants such as DMAA are then added to the caffeine in such energy drinks, this could produce a more powerful effect.

The FDA is currently embarking on the scientific and legal steps to ban DMAA on the market, but until that happens they are recommending consumers avoid any dietary supplements containing DMAA.

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