February 29, 2012 — A Southern Californian woman has filed a lawsuit over DMAA, what she claims is an “illegal and dangerous” ingredient in the dietary supplement C4 Extreme. DMAA is a popular stimulant in many popular dietary supplements, including OxyElite Pro, Jack3d, and party pills. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that DMAA side effects include cardiovascular disorders, neurological disorders, and death. Several U.S. soldiers who died of heart attacks during physical training were found to have DMAA in their bloodstream.
The DMAA lawsuit, filed by Lynette Bates, claims that “experts in the industry have become concerned that this potent stimulant drug will lead to serious health issues and even death.” DMAA has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and is a controlled substance in Canada and New Zealand. It remains legal in the U.S.
Ms. Bates purchased a drink powder called C4 Extreme, which no longer contains DMAA. The lawsuit was filed against GNC, the nation’s largest chain retailer of dietary supplements, and Cellucor Sports Nutrition, the company the manufactures and distributes C4 Extreme. She is suing the companies for “making false and unsubstantiated representations concerning the efficacy, safety, and legality of C4 Extreme.”
DMAA was first synthesized as a synthetic drug by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lily in the 1940s. It was marketed as a nasal decongestant spray under the brand-name Forthane, but never took off. The patent lapsed, and about six years ago, a chemist named Patrick Arnold began creating dietary supplements containing DMAA. Arnold served prison time for his involvement in the BALCO baseball doping scandal. BALCO supplied “designer” stimulant drugs to sports professional such as Barry Bonds, who used the drugs because they did not appear on drug tests. After Arnold served prison time for the BALCO scandal, he started several dietary supplement companies, including E-Pharm Nutrition, which sells apple-flavored Clearshot containing DMAA.
Many people use dietary supplements containing DMAA as pre-workout energy boosters. They are also sold as a way to burn fat and lose weight. On the ingredient labels for OxyElite Pro, Jack3d, and many other supplements, DMAA is listed as “1,3-dimethylamylamine” or “geranium stem.”
However, the link between DMAA and the geranium plant is a source of controversy. The link is based on one error-filled report published in a Chinese technical journal that was not peer reviewed in 1996, in which the authors claimed to have used botanical samples from the geranium plant, run them though a spectrometer, and the machine automatically assigned identities to dozens of compounds, one of which was DMAA.
Many experts criticize “fundamental flaws” in the FDA’s current regulatory framework regarding dietary supplements, which could allow potentially dangerous ingredients to reach American consumers. The FDA is considering making changes to the guidelines, but has not yet done so, and many are saying the proposed guidelines do not go far enough. Until then, it is likely that the number of DMAA lawsuits will continue to grow.
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