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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High Protein Diets and Weight Loss

Posted October 16, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do High Protein Diets Reduce Fat And Preserve Muscle?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Healthy Diet food group, proteins, include meat (chicken or turkAre high protein diets your secret to healthy weight loss? There are lots of diets out there – high fat, low fat, Paleolithic, blood type, exotic juices, magic pills and potions. But recently, high protein diets are getting a lot of press. The word is that they preserve muscle mass and preferentially decrease fat mass.

If high protein diets actually did that, it would be huge because:

  • It’s the fat – not the pounds – that causes most of the health problems.
  • Muscle burns more calories than fat, so preserving muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate high without dangerous herbs or stimulants – and keeping your metabolic rate high helps prevent both the plateau and yo-yo (weight regain) characteristic of so many diets.
  • When you lose fat and retain muscle you are reshaping your body – and that’s why most people are dieting to begin with.

So let’s look more carefully at the recent study that has been generating all the headlines (Pasiakos et al, The FASEB Journal, 27: 3837-3847, 2013).

The Study Design:

This was a randomized control study with 39 young (21), healthy and fit men and women who were only borderline overweight (BMI = 25). These volunteers were put on a 21 day weight loss program in which calories were reduced by 30% and exercise was increased by 10%. They were divided into 3 groups:

  • One group was assigned a diet containing the RDA for protein (about 14% of calories in this study design).
  • The second group’s diet contained 2X the RDA for protein (28% of calories)
  • The third group’s diet contained 3X the RDA for protein (42% of calories)

In the RDA protein group carbohydrate was 56% of calories, and fat was 30% of calories. In the other two groups the carbohydrate and fat content of the diets was decreased proportionally.

Feet_On_ScaleWhat Did The Study Show?

  • Weight loss (7 pounds in 21 days) was the same on all 3 diets.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused almost 2X more fat loss (5 pounds versus 2.8 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused 2X less muscle loss (2.1 pounds versus 4.2 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • In case you didn’t notice, there was no difference in overall results between the 28% (2X the RDA) and 42% (3X the RDA) diets.

Pros And Cons Of The Study:

  • The con is fairly obvious. The participants in this study were all young, healthy and were not seriously overweight. If this were the only study of this type one might seriously question whether the results were applicable to middle aged, overweight coach potatoes. However, there have been several other studies with older, more overweight volunteers that have come to the same conclusion – namely that high protein diets preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss.
  • The value of this study is that it defines for the first time the upper limit for how much protein is required to preserve muscle mass in a weight loss regimen. 28% of calories is sufficient, and there appear to be no benefit from increasing protein further. I would add the caveat that there are studies suggesting that protein requirements for preserving muscle mass may be greater in adults 50 and older.

The Bottom Line:

1)    Forget the high fat diets, low fat diets, pills and potions. High protein diets (~2X the RDA or 28% of calories) do appear to be the safest, most effective way to preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss in a weight loss regimen.

2)     That’s not a lot of protein, by the way. The average American consumes almost 2X the RDA for protein on a daily basis. However, it is significantly more protein than the average American consumes when they are trying to lose weight. Salads and carrot sticks are great diet foods, but they don’t contain much protein.

3)     Higher protein intake does not appear to offer any additional benefit – at least in young adults.

4)     Not all high protein diets are created equal. What some people call high protein diets are laden with saturated fats or devoid of carbohydrate. The diet in this study, which is what I recommend, had 43% healthy carbohydrates and 30% healthy fats.

5)    These diets were designed to give 7 pounds of weight loss in 21 days – which is what the experts recommend. There are diets out there promising faster weight loss but they severely restrict calories and/or rely heavily on stimulants, they do not preserve muscle mass, and they often are not safe. In addition they are usually temporary.  I do not recommend them.

6)    This level of protein intake is safe for almost everyone. The major exception would be people with kidney disease, who should always check with their doctor before increasing protein intake. The only other caveat is that protein metabolism creates a lot of nitrogenous waste, so you should drink plenty of water to flush that waste out of your system. But, water is always a good idea.

7)     The high protein diets minimized, but did not completely prevent, muscle loss. Other studies suggest that adding the amino acid leucine to a high protein diet can give 100% retention of muscle mass in a weight loss regimen – but that’s another story for another day.

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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