Supplements To Avoid

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Drugs and Health, Fitness and Health, Supplements and Health

What You Don’t Know Could Kill You

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

There are a few bad apples in every barrel, and the supplement industry is no different, especially when it comes to sports nutrition, weight loss products and supplements to avoid. In previous health tips from the professor I have exposed some of the more dangerous sports nutrition and sports nutritionweight loss products on the market at the time. For example, I have reported on the dangers of weight loss and sports nutrition products containing the amphetamine-like compounds DMAA  and DEPA .

The DMAA story was a real scandal.  Not only did sports nutrition products containing DMAA kill people, but the FDA actually had to raid the warehouses of a major nutrition retailer to force them to stop selling it.

You might ask why would supplement manufacturers even make products like that? The bottom line is that some companies are far more interested in their profit margin than they are in the safety of their customers. Amphetamine-like ingredients burn off calories and give athletes an artificial energy boost. Those results sell products.

The fact that those same ingedients also kill people is of little concern to unscrupulous manufactures. In fact, as soon as one amphetamine-like ingredient is banned, they just reformulate by adding another amphetamine-like ingredient to their product.

Sports Supplements To Avoid

The unscrupous manufacturers are at it again. A recent paper by a group of scientists in the United States and the Netherlands (Cohen et al., Drug Testing and Analysis, 2014: DOI 10.1002/dta.1735) reported that DMBA, another amphetamine-like ingredient that is a close analog of DMAA, was found in at least 12 products marketed to improve athletic performance, increase weight loss and enhance brain function.

dmba supplements to avoidDMBA (1,3-dimethylbutylamine) is a synthetic compound that has never been tested for safety in humans, something that the FDA is supposed to require for every new dietary ingredient added to a supplement. Because DMBA is chemically similar to DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine), the scientists conducting the study suspected that manufacturers may have started adding it to their products.

The scientists surveyed the listed ingredients on all supplements distributed in the United States for any ingredient name that might be a synonym for DMBA. They identified 14 supplements that fit that criteria and analyzed them for the presence of DMBA. 12 tested positive for DMBA.

The supplements they identified that contained DMBA were Contraband, Redline White Heat, Evol, MD2 Meltdown, Oxyphen XR AMP’D, OxyTHERM Pro, Oxyfit Extreme, Synetherm, AMPitropin, Decimate Amplified, AMPilean, and Frenzy – but they warned that there could be many more out there that they didn’t identify.

The authors of the study stressed that DMBA is a synthetic pharmaceutical ingredient, has the potential to cause the same health risks as DMAA, and has never been tested in humans. They stated: “Given the potential risks of untested pharmacologic stimulants, we strongly recommend that manufacturers immediately recall all DMBA in dietary supplements…The FDA and other regulatory bodies should, without delay, warn consumers about the presence of DMBA in [certain] dietary supplements.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, sent a letter to the FDA on September 12th urging regulatory action…noting that it has a similar chemical structure to the banned ingredient [DMAA] and that none of those selling it have filed required “new dietary ingredient” paperwork with the FDA to substantiate its safety.” The FDA has yet to respond.

This story is all too familiar. The unscrupulous manufacturers won’t remove unsafe ingredients until they are forced to, and the FDA is far too slow to act. Often the FDA doesn’t act until the product actually kills people, as was the case for products containing DMAA.

Label Deception

label deceptionIf you are like me, you are probably outraged that manufacturers would even consider selling products like these. But the story only gets worse. None of the labels actually list DMBA as an ingredient. That’s probably because DMBA looks enough like DMAA that intelligent consumers might be scared off.

Instead, they list the ingredient as AMP citrate. They can do that because they are using AMP to stand for 4-amino-2-methylpentane. But that is not the common usage for AMP.

To any biochemist, and probably most high school biology students, AMP stands for 5’-adenosylmonophosphate – a normal and harmless cellular metabolite. Citrate is also a normal cellular metabolite.

In short, the manufacturers are purposely masquerading a synthetic and potentially dangerous stimulant under a pseudonym that looks like naturally occurring cellular metabolites. That is shameful!

Lack of Quality Control

But wait, it gets even worse. The scientists analyzed 14 products that had AMP citrate on the label and the amount of DMBA ranged from 0 to 120 mg.  Apparently these manufacturers have no quality control process either. That is a huge concern because this ingredient has never been tested for safety in humans. We have no idea how much it takes to harm people!

The highest, and potentially most dangerous, levels of DMBA were found in:

• AMPilean, a fat burner from Lecheek Nutrition
• Frenzy, a pre-workout powder from Driven Sports
• MD2 Meltdown, a weight loss product from VPX Sports
• AMPitrophin, a brain enhancer sold by Lecheek Nutrition

What Can You Do?

Every time you read something like this, you might be tempted to avoid all sports nutrition and weight loss supplements. However, you should realize that unsafe products like these represent a very small part of the industry. You just need to be an informed consumer so that you are aware of supplements to avoid. For example:

  • Be skeptical of flamboyant claims. For example, some of the claims made by the products listed in this article are “The ultimate stimulant experience”, “Fat incinerator”, “Rapid energy surge”. When you see claims like that you should run the other direction.
  • Research your manufacturer. Only choose companies with a long track record of integrity and product quality.
  • Insist on published clinical studies showing that the product is both safe and effective.

The Bottom Line:

1) A recent report identified a number of sports nutrition and weight loss products containing the amphetamine-like ingredient DMBA. This is a synthetic compound that closely resembles DMAA, a stimulant that was recently banned by the FDA.

2) Because DMBA is potentially dangerous and has never been tested for safety in humans both the authors of this article and the Council for Responsible Nutrition have recommended that the FDA issue a recall of products containing this ingredient. To date the FDA has not acted.

3) You cannot identify products containing this dangerous ingredient by searching for DMBA on the label. That is because the manufacturers selling these products have chosen to use the harmless sounding pseudonym AMP citrate on their ingredient list rather than DMBA.

4) The amount of DMBA in products listing AMP citrate on their label ranged from 0 to 120 mg. That means you have no idea how much DMBA you are getting from the label. Even worse, because this ingredient has never been tested in humans we have no idea how much is safe.

5) Unscrupulous manufacturers who put untested and potentially dangerous ingredients in their supplements represent only a tiny fraction of the industry, but reports like this emphasize the importance of being an informed consumer. I recommend that you:

  • Use your common sense. Avoid supplements promising magic gains in energy, muscle mass or weight loss.
  • Research your manufacturer. Only choose companies with a long track record of integrity and product quality.
  • Insist on published clinical studies showing that the product is both safe and effective.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Can Plant-based Diets Be Unhealthy?

Posted September 10, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

plant-based diets vegetablesPlant-based diets have become the “Golden Boys” of the diet world. They are the diets most often recommended by knowledgeable health and nutrition professionals. I’m not talking about all the “Dr. Strangeloves” who pitch weird diets in books and the internet. I am talking legitimate experts who have spent their life studying the impact of nutrition on our health.

Certainly, there is an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the claim that plant-based diets are healthy. Going on a plant-based diet can help you lower blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol and triglycerides. People who consume a plant-based diet for a lifetime weigh less and have decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

But, can a plant-based diet be unhealthy? Some people consider a plant-based diet to simply be the absence of meat and other animal foods. Is just replacing animal foods with plant-based foods enough to make a diet healthy?

Maybe not. After all, sugar and white flour are plant-based food ingredients. Fake meats of all kinds abound in our grocery stores. Some are very wholesome, but others are little more than vegetarian junk food. If you replace animal foods with plant-based sweets, desserts, and junk food, is your diet really healthier?

While the answer to that question seems obvious, very few studies have asked that question. Most studies on the benefits of plant-based diets have compared population groups that eat a strictly plant-based diet (Seventh-Day Adventists, vegans, or vegetarians) with the general public. They have not looked at variations in plant food consumption within the general public. Nor have they compared people who consume healthy and unhealthy plant foods.

This study (H Kim et al, Journal of the American Heart Association, 8:e012865, 2019) was designed to fill that void.

 

How Was The Study Done?

plant-based diets studyThis study used data collected from 12,168 middle aged adults in the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study between 1987 and 2016.

The participant’s usual intake of foods and beverages was assessed by trained interviewers using a food frequency questionnaire at the time of entry into the study and again 6 years later.

Participants were asked to indicate the frequency with which they consumed 66 foods and beverages of a defined serving size in the previous year. Visual guides were provided to help participants estimate portion sizes.

The participant’s adherence to a plant-based diet was assessed using four different well-established plant-based diet scores. For the sake of simplicity, I will include 3 of them in this review.

  • The PDI (Plant-Based Diet Index) categorizes foods as either plant foods or animal foods. A high PDI score means that the participant’s diet contains more plant foods than animal foods. A low PDI score means the participant’s diet contains more animal foods than plant foods.
  • The hPDI (healthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “healthy” plant foods. A high hPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) and low in animal foods.
  • The uPDI (unhealthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “unhealthy” plant foods. A high uPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) and low in animal foods.

For statistical analysis the scores from the various plant-based diet indices were divided into 5 equal groups. In each case, the group with the highest score consumed the most plant foods and least animal foods. The group with the lowest score consumed the least plant foods and the most animal foods.

The health outcomes measured in this study were heart disease events, heart disease deaths, and all-cause deaths. Again, for the sake of simplicity, I will only include 2 of these outcomes (heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths) in this review. The data on deaths were obtained from state death records and the National Death Index. (Yes, your personal information is available on the web even after you die.)

 

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

plant-based diets reduce heart deathsThe participants in this study were followed for an average of 25 years.

The investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years and compared people with the highest intake of plant foods to people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods. The results were:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

What Else Did The Study Show?

The investigators made a couple of other interesting observations:

  • The association of the overall diet with heart disease and all-cause deaths was stronger than the association of individual food components. This underscores the importance of looking at the effect of the whole diet on health outcomes rather than the “magic” foods you hear about on Dr. Strangelove’s Health Blog.
  • Diets with the highest amount of healthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of carbohydrates, plant protein, fiber, and micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Diets with the highest amount of unhealthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of calories and carbohydrates and lower intake of fiber and micronutrients.

The last two observations may help explain some of the health benefits of plant-based diets.

 

Can Plant-Based Diets Be Unhealthy?

plant-based diets unhealthy cookiesNow, let’s return to the question I asked at the beginning of this article: “Can plant-based diets be unhealthy?” Although some previous studies have suggested that unhealthy plant-based diets might increase the risk of heart disease, this study did not show that.

What this study did show was that an unhealthy plant-based diet was no better for you than a diet containing lots of red meat and other animal foods.

If this were the only conclusion from this study, it might be considered a neutral result. However, this result clearly contrasts with the data from this study and many others showing that both plant-based diets in general and healthy plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths compared to animal-based diets.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

There is one other subtle message from this study. This study did not compare vegans with the general public. Everyone in the study was the general public. Nobody in the study was consuming a 100% plant-based diet.

For example:

  • The group with the highest intake of plant foods consumed 9 servings per day of plant foods and 3.6 servings per day of animal foods.
  • The group with the lowest intake of plant foods consumed 5.4 servings per day of plant foods and 5.6 servings per day of animal foods.

In other words, you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet.

 

The Bottom Line

A recent study analyzed the effect of consuming plant foods on heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths over a 25-year period.

When the investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

A more subtle message from the study is that you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet. The people in this study were not following some special diet. The only difference was that some of the people in this study ate more plant foods and others more animal foods.

For more details on the study, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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