By Patrick Arnold
DMAA, also known as methylhexanamine or “geranamine” is a controversial stimulant ingredient used in weight loss and energy supplements. In April of this year the FDA made a strong statement regarding its health dangers and its lack of legal standing as a nutritional supplement. Companies selling DMAA products for the most part stopped selling the stuff, and those who didn’t fully comply were subject to harsh enforcement actions by the FDA.
It took a long time for the FDA to act on DMAA, and that was in large part due to the fact that they really didn’t have clear cut evidence that the product was dangerous. Outcries by certain people that claimed the product was responsible for various adverse medical events and deaths however became louder and louder. These claims were not substantiated by any medical evidence though and so were not enough for the FDA to act upon.
The most publicized adverse health events regarding DMAA involved the US military. The deaths of four servicemen were being blamed on DMAA. As a consequence, the department of defense commissioned a safety study on the compound to determine whether it indeed was dangerous and to blame for the soldiers’ deaths (as well as other medical incidents involving soldiers). This was to be the study that the FDA could rest its hat on and justify an emergency action against DMAA.
Things started getting strange though. The study was supposed to be finished in February 2012. That date came and went and no word on the study results were announced. Then word came that the study was taking longer than expected and would be done in December 2012. Well December 2012 came around and still no word. Months passed and no one seemed to be talking about the huge DOD study that was supposed to prove once and for all that DMAA was deadly.
Then in April 2013 the FDA announced that it considered DMAA illegal to sell and warned of a whole variety of potential health risks. No mention of the DOD study which was supposed to provide the scientific validation was made – the FDA announcement was based simply on theory.
What happened to the DOD study? Well, in August the results were finally released (four months after the FDA’s arbitrary action). They were released with such lack of fanfare and media coverage that even I was not aware of the results until just today (almost two months later). Essentially they found that despite a high apparent usage of DMAA by soldiers (as much as 15 percent) the substance at doses recommended by manufacture poses a low risk of serious harm for most service members. The study basically exonerated DMAA from being responsible for the deaths of the four soldiers. They cautioned though that the “potential” of DMAA to cause harm still exists and ongoing studies would be needed to fully understand the health issues (I guess two years wasn’t enough).
Anyway, I have my own take on this situation. I think it was clear quite a while ago that the DOD study was not going to provide the smoking gun that was expected and hoped for. At that point the results were kept hush hush and the FDA decided to act anyway against DMAA. Then they waited four months to quietly announce the study results – so quietly that it took me six weeks to even be aware of them.