Nearly a dozen supplements marketed to help consumers lose weight, improve athletic performance and enhance cognitive function are a new cause for alarm. Researchers found a potentially dangerous amphetamine-like substance known as BMPEA in products containing Acacia rigidula. BMPEA has never been studied or tested on humans. This comes two years after health officials warned against BMPEA, the “designer stimulant” that’s labeled as a plant extract.
“There is not a single weight loss supplement on the market that is legal and that has been shown to lead to weight loss in humans,” Cohen said Tuesday on CBS This Morning.
Though the effects of BMPEA aren’t known, other amphetamine stimulants are known to increase blood pressure, cause cardiovascular complications, suppress sleep and appetite and can be addictive. Only three of the supplements in which the chemical was found indicated its presence on their labels, and none of them specified the amount of BMPEA in each pill.
When you’re taking these products you don’t know if they contain this compound, you don’t know the toxic effect and if it’s there you don’t know the amount at which you could potentially overdose, researchers stated.
BMPEA is a little-studied chemical. The compound has never been identified in or extracted from Acacia Rigidula, indicating that it is likely being produced synthetically and added to the pills, researchers say.
Acacia Rigidula is code in the industry for a potent synthetic stimulant and they are using the name as a cover.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, which must undergo a multi-stage testing and review process, supplements are only lightly regulated by the FDA. Federal guidelines require companies to ensure that their products are safe and accurately labeled, but the FDA has little power to enforce that rule.
This means that supplement manufacturers are not held to the same standards to prove that their products are safe, let alone effective.
In some herbal supplements “the active ingredient is really something synthetic … but it’s a ploy to deceive the public that whatever they’re taking is natural and therefore should not be harmful.
In the past five years, tainted supplements have been associated with kidney failure, hepatitis and other problems. A recent investigation by the New York attorney general’s office found that many common supplements don’t contain the active ingredient listed on their labels.
The study recommends that the FDA recall all products found to contain BMPEA and that the chemical be eliminated from other dietary supplements.