The Hidden Chemicals in Herbal Supplements

The Hidden Chemicals in Herbal Supplements

I’m Taking WHAT?!

BMPEA herbal supplement

Ever heard of a chemical called beta-methylphenylethylamine (or BMPEA for short)? No? Me neither. A recent report suggests that we may all have been taking this dangerous amphetamine like drug.

If you’ve ever taken supplements for weight loss, improving athletic performance, or improving cognition than you may have taken this amphetamine isomer. It’s effects have never been studied in humans.

That’s right, there’s an untested and unregulated amphetamine like drug being added to herbal supplements. That sounds insane and unethical, right? Well strap on your seatbelts readers ‘cause things just get worse.

It turns out the FDA has known about BMPEA for over two years. Let me repeat that – for over two years the FDA’s been aware that certain supplement companies are adding a dangerous chemical to their products. For over two years they’ve been aware of this and done…nothing. Not one product has been recalled or even had a public warning attached to it.

Oh, and by the by, the World Anti-Doping Agency considers BMPEA a doping agent.

What’s going on here?! Has the Food and Drug Administration gone insane? It certainly seems like it.

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New Info on Dangerous Supplements

The study, published April seventh in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, is the culmination of several universities and researchers work to identify just what the hell is going on in the wild west world of dietary supplements.

What they learned doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Researchers analyzed over twenty herbal supplements. Eleven of them, including popular brand “Jet Fuel Superburn,” were found to contain BMPEA.

It gets worse. Almost none of the supplements identified BMPEA as an ingredient. Instead, they listed something called Acacia rigidula. This is a shrub believed to have fat burning effects. What? A dangerous chemical is being masqueraded around as a shrub?

Pieter Cohen, one of the lead authors of this new report and a professor at Harvard Medical School, shares this view. He’s gone on record as saying, “Acacia rigidula is code in the industry for a potent synthetic stimulant…they are using the name as a cover” (The Washington Post).

Before going any further, I’d like to briefly talk about BMPEA. Beta-methylphenylethylamine is an isomer of amphetamine. That means it has the same chemical makeup, but a different molecular structure. To put it another way, BMPEA is like amphetamine’s cousin. It’s been around since the 30’s, but has never been tested in humans. Animal tests confirm that it behaves like amphetamines, raising blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

This is the chemical that’s being sold to unsuspecting consumers the world over. Amphetamine requires a prescription to get and is widely cited as addictive and harmful. Its chemical cousin, however, can be purchased at any GNA or Vitamin Shoppe. That just doesn’t seem right.

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What’s the FDA Doing?

That’s a good question! Just what, if anything, is the FDA doing to address an amphetamine isomer being added to popular herbal supplements? Well…not much.

A spokeswoman for the FDA commented on the issue, saying BMPEA “does not identify a specific safety concern at this time.” She went on to say that making supplements safe is a top priority of the agency.

Okay, that sounds fine, right? It does until you remember that the FDA’s known about BMPEA being added off label to supplements for over two years. During that time, the agency never once issued a warning, recalled a product, or even made public the companies adding BMPEA.

Sounds lax to me. Actually, scratch that, it sounds downright dangerous to me. Roy Gerona, a chemist from the University of California at San Francisco and co-author of this new report, agrees. He’s gone on record as saying,

“When you’re taking these products you don’t know if they contain this compound [BMPEA], you don’t know the toxic effect and if it’s there you don’t know the amount at which you could potentially overdose” (The Wasington Post).

Who do we believe? Do we listen to the FDA or a group of scientists and researchers? Well, perhaps we should follow in the footsteps of the Canadian government. Remember “Jet Fuel Superburn” mentioned above? Well, last year, Canadian health officials recalled the supplement, citing “serious health risks.”

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What Else is Being Done?

Right now there’s nothing being done to legally challenge the introduction of BMPEA to herbal supplements. Perhaps that’s because the FDA, the agency that regulates all supplements, has close ties to the supplement industry.

Two top officials in the FDA are former supplement lobbyists. Sounds like a conflict of interests, right? Let’s hope the FDA gets some sense into their collective head and decides to do something soon.

Until then, there have been some stirrings in the government. In early April, fourteen attorney generals from various states petitioned Congress to begin investigating the supplement industry.

That’s a start, but there’s much more that’s needed to make over the counter supplements safe. What do you think should be done? Let us know on social media!

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