Scientists find banned substances in many sports supplements

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When you pick up a sports supplement, you may assume that what’s on the label is what you’re actually ingesting.

However, a recent study has shown that reality might be quite different.

In a collaborative effort, researchers from the Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, the University of Mississippi, and NSF International analyzed a selection of sports supplements purchased online.

Shockingly, they found that 89% of the products were inaccurately labeled, and 12% included unlabeled banned drug substances.

The scientists published their findings in the JAMA Network Open, where they highlighted the issue of incorrect labeling and the presence of dangerous ingredients.

The team analyzed fifty-seven products, each containing one of five popular supplements. Surprisingly, 40% of these products did not contain a detectable amount of the ingredient listed on the label.

Moreover, only 11% of the products contained a quantity of the ingredient within 10% of the stated amount on the label.

Even more concerning was the discovery of FDA-prohibited ingredients in 12% of the products.

They found five different FDA-prohibited compounds, including synthetic stimulants and nootropics, some of which are associated with serious health risks.

The Added Drugs in Supplements

The banned substances found in these supplements include:

  • 1,4-DMAA: An amphetamine derivative that can lead to cardiovascular problems.
  • Deterenol (Betaphrine): A synthetic stimulant linked to nausea, vomiting, agitation, palpitations, chest pain, and cardiac arrest.
  • Octodrine: A discontinued nasal decongestant with reported side effects of hypertension, dyspnea, and hyperthermia.
  • Oxilofrine: A pharmaceutical stimulant linked to severe adverse events, including vomiting, agitation, and cardiac arrest.
  • Omberacetam: A nootropic analog of piracetam with adverse effects including anxiety, insomnia, agitation, depression, drowsiness, and weight gain.

The Need for Regulatory Control

The results of this study underscore the dire need for stricter regulation of sports supplements.

At present, the FDA categorizes supplements as a food subcategory, which means they are not subject to the rigorous control that applies to medications.

Although the FDA can take action against misbranded or adulterated supplements, it only does so after the product has reached the market. Even then, the action usually only involves a recall and product destruction request.

The study’s findings highlight the potential health risks associated with the consumption of mislabeled or adulterated supplements.

The presence of banned substances in these products is tantamount to experimenting on humans without their knowledge or consent.

The onus of ensuring the safety and accurate labeling of supplements currently falls on the supplement companies.

However, given the disturbing findings of this study, it is clear that more stringent oversight and regulation of the sports supplement industry are urgently needed.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

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