DMAA Supplements: What Are They Thinking?

And this from Dr. Chaney   — for your Health and Happiness —

Stephen Chaney, PhD

Dr. Stephen Chaney is a professor of biochemistry, biophysics and nutrition at UNC Medical School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is also a prominent cancer researcher with a well established research lab he directs at UNC.

Some of you may have heard about the DMAA saga. But for those of you who haven’t let me give you a little history.

DMAA-containing supplements are just the latest in a long list of sports nutrition supplements that were heavily promoted as performance-enhancing supplements – but which really turned out to be either ineffective or dangerous – or both.

DMAA is short for the chemical dimethylamylamine. It is structurally very similar to amphetamine.

DMAA was originally developed as a nasal decongestant. However, it also has thermogenic and stimulant effects.

Shortly after ephedrine was banned in the United States manufacturers started adding DMAA to their weight loss and sports pre-workout supplements.

Because it is a stimulant, the World Anti-Doping Agency added DMAA to its 2010 prohibited list and numerous elite athletes have been disqualified from competition for DMAA use since then.

But that has not kept many other athletes from using DMAA supplements.

And that is a concern because, just like ephedrine, DMAA is not an innocuous substance. Reported side effects include headache, nausea and stroke.

And now, just like with ephedrine, it appears that we can add death to the list of side effects associated with DMAA usage.

After two US soldiers died following DMAA usage the US Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores ordered the removal of all products containing DMAA from their shelves.

Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Health Protection and Readiness (don’t you love bureaucracy!) was quoted as saying the products were pulled from the shelves because “We are concerned about reports of heat illness, kidney (and) liver damage, and sudden death in service members who reportedly used products containing DMAA.”

Now I might have considered this as just another sad example of a sports supplement industry that puts profits ahead of safety and athletes who are willing to take almost any risk to gain an edge.

But then I read something in the February 17, 2012 issue of NUTRA that made my blood boil.  It turns out that while GNC recalled all products containing DMAA from GNC stores on US military bases, it is continuing to sell those same products in all of its other stores.

And the CEO of GNC was bragging that the DMAA saga had “no impact whatsoever” on their sales.

I don’t know which is worse – that GNC is continuing to sell the DMAA supplements or that people are continuing to buy them.

What are they thinking?

To Your Health!

Dr. Stephen G Chaney


The day after my email went out I learned that GNC and the manufacturer of the DMAA-containing product they sell have been sued in California for misleading consumers about the safety of the product.

Among other things the suit states that “Plaintiff alleges that the DMAA contained in C-4 Extreme is a synthetic product that is illegal and dangerous and has dangerous side effects”

And on Friday I learned that England has completely banned the sale of DMAA-containing products.

You may have heard about it here first, but I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about the DMAA story in the weeks and months to come.

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