A substance marketed as a natural stimulant in nutrition and sports supplements has proven to be entirely synthetic, investigators reported.
Chemical analysis of 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) from supplements found it indistinguishable from two known synthetic versions of the compound. Purportedly derived from geranium plants, DMAA did not show up in analyses of extracts from eight different types of geranium.
"It appears unlikely that the DMAA in supplements originates from natural sources, such as geranium oils, for three reasons," Daniel W. Armstrong, PhD, of the University of Texas at Arlington, and co-authors wrote in conclusion in an article published online in Drug Testing and Analysis.
"The DMAA extracted from these supplement products had diastereomeric ratios that were indistinguishable from the synthetic DMAA standards. They are all racemic. No DMAA was detected at a level ≥10 parts per billion (ppb) in any of the eight geranium oil samples."
DMAA has a controversial history dating back to the 1940s when it was marketed as a vasoconstrictor called Forthane. The compound remained relatively obscure for several decades until it was renamed geranamine and marketed as an ingredient in sports supplements, according to background information in the journal article. The basis for the rebranding came from a 1996 report that identified DMAA as a natural compound found in geranium (J Guizhou Inst Tech 1996; 25: 82).
Because it is a stimulant, DMAA was added to the list of substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2009. The compound also was associated with serious adverse effects in a few instances. For example, a young man in New Zealand had a serious hemorrhage after taking pills containing DMAA before consuming alcohol (N Zealand J Med 2010; 123: 124).
Additionally, DMAA use was suspected in the deaths of two U.S. soldiers in 2011.
Uncertainty surrounding the status of DMAA as a natural substance has been at the center of a decades-long debate about the need for regulatory oversight. Evidence that DMAA occurs naturally in geranium plants has been called into question several times since the 1960s, the authors noted.
Most recently, the National Measurement Institute of Australia concluded that geranium oils contain no DMAA. In supplements purported to contain geranium oil, any DMAA in the products can come only from the addition of synthetic material (Drug Test Anal 2011; 3 :873).
Armstrong and colleagues set out to resolve the arguments about the origin of DMAA in supplement products. They analyzed two synthetic DMAA compounds obtained from different commercial sources, the DMAA concentration and components in 13 supplements obtained from three different retail sources, and eight geranium extracts from different regions of China and the Middle East.
All of the products obtained for the study were analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.
The results showed that DMAA consisted of four stereoisomers. Isomer ratios unique to the synthetic DMAA were identical to those of the DMAA found in the supplements. Analysis of the geranium extracts showed no evidence of DMAA in any of the samples.
The findings have safety and regulatory implications that extend beyond DMAA, according to Armstrong.
"The FDA should regulate and/or ban products in which significant amounts of synthetic pharmacological compounds are added," Armstrong said in a statement. "Also, this information should be clearly labeled – including their effects and possible side effects – so that consumers can make an informed choice."
By Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: July 13, 2012
Article can be found here
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