Stimulant Still Lurks in Some Supplements

Weight loss supplements contained Acacia rigidula, a potentially dangerous stimulant also known as beta-methylphenylethylamine

Some supplements promise to boost metabolism, build muscle, give you extreme energy and promote fat loss. Sounds pretty good, right? Maybe not.

A new study found a potentially dangerous stimulant hiding in nearly a dozen popular weight loss supplements.

Check your shelf for any supplements with the words "Acacia rigidula." The authors of this new study said this is the red-flag ingredient and another name for beta-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA).

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t taken any action against the companies using BMPEA, a potentially dangerous stimulant, according to the study authors.

Dr. Pieter A. Cohen, of Harvard University, led this study. Dr. Cohen and team took a look at 21 supplements after the FDA released research that identified BMPEA in several supplements. The 2013 FDA study detected BMPEA in nine products labeled as containing Acacia rigidula.

“Not only is a new stimulant widely available in supplements, but the FDA has known about it for two years but has not even warned the public,” Dr. Cohen told dailyRx News.

Dr. Cohen continued, “We thought it was essential to find out if the manufacturers had quietly removed this new stimulant from the supplements after the FDA had reported their results. We were shocked to find that they had not."

Dr. Cohen and team found that BMPEA was still an ingredient in 11 of 21 weight loss products tested:

  • Aro Black Series Burn
  • Black Widow
  • Dexaprine XR
  • Fastin-XR
  • Jet Fuel Superburn
  • Jet Fuel T-300
  • Lipodrene Hardcore
  • Lipodrene Xtreme
  • MX-LS7
  • Stimerex-ES
  • Yellow Scorpion

Dr. Cohen and team said the companies that manufacture these supplements should immediately recall all that contain BMPEA. They are also calling on the FDA to use all of its enforcement powers to eliminate this ingredient from store shelves.

There has been little research to date on the dangers BMPEA poses to human health. However, Dr. Cohen and team noted that it could have significant consequences for athletes subject to urine testing. BMPEA is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

So how dangerous is BMPEA?

“The scary thing is that we have absolutely no idea," Dr. Cohen said. "We know it is structurally almost identical to speed and in animals it has similar effects. In humans, we have no idea, but similar types of compounds have been linked to strokes and sudden death.”

Currently, there are very few laws governing supplements.

“Even minimal laws are not being honored by manufacturers or enforced by the FDA. Unfortunately, until this changes, all weight loss supplements are best avoided,” Dr. Cohen added.

Juli Putnam, a spokesperson with the FDA, told dailyRx, “The FDA’s first priority with regard to dietary supplements is ensuring safety. While our review of the available information on products containing BMPEA does not identify a specific safety concern at this time, the FDA will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers.”

Until then, Dr. Cohen and the other researchers involved in this study are trying to get the word out to consumers.

“I sure hope the FDA will finally act, but I'm not holding my breath,” Dr. Cohen said.

The study by Dr. Cohen and team was published April 7 in the journal Drug Testing & Analysis. The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.