Friday, December 16, 2011

How safe and effective is methylhexanamine (DMAA)? by Jerry Brainum

Supplements containing methylhexanamine, also known as dimethylamylamine (DMAA) have emerged as popular pre-workout products. They are also said to provide thermogenic effects that would aid fat loss efforts.DMAA isn't a new substance. It was patented back in 1944 by the Lilly drug company, who waited until April, 1971 to trademark the substance as "Forthane," for use as a nasal decongestant. It works by either blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine, or stimulating its release. Norepinephrine is known to constrict blood vessels, and by doing so, it shrinks swollen nasal passages, thus relieving congestion. The patent for DMAA expired years ago, making it subject to use by anyone who wanted to market it. But since it is a drug, this isn't as easy as it sounds. There appeared to be a workaround, when an obscure Asian science journal study  found that DMAA existed naturally in germanium oil at a concentration of 0.66-1%.
   The finding of DMAA in a natural source meant that it could be used in food supplements. This was made possible by the passage of the Dietary Health and Supplement Education Act in 1994, which opened the door to the use of countless substances, including many "pro hormones," as long as the substance was found in a natural source. Pat Arnold, a chemist known for his development of many of the early pro hormone supplements, as well as for being the brains behind the drugs used in the notorious BALCO sports drug scandal, found the obscure Asian study, and also noted that the patent on DMAA had long since expired. He was seeking an alternative to ephedrine, which was touted for its stimulant and fat-burning properties, but which had been removed from the market by the FDA in 2004. Arnold produced his own "germanium-based" supplement that he called Geranamine to the bodybuilding market. As is the usual nature of the supplement industry, others soon jumped on the DMAA bandwagon, especially with the emergence of anecdotal reports that it boosted workout intensity considerably.
    The stimulant effects of DMAA didn't go unnoticed by people who were not so interested in burning fat. It emerged as a popular "party" drug in New Zealand. But as is common with such home brew drugs, the amount of DMAA varied in the products, which lead to a few serious medical complications, including headaches, nausea, and strokes. The latter effect is more likley in those with existing high blood pressure, since anything that boosts norepinephrine also raises blood pressure slightly because of the vasoconstrictive effect of norepinephrine. The stimulant effect of DMAA also attracted the attention of the World Antidoping Agency, which banned it in 2009. Since then, a number of world-class athletes have been busted when DMAA emerged in their blood tests. But the question remains: how safe and effective is DMAA?
    The safety profile of DMAA is similar to that of caffeine. Caffeine also boost norepinephrine levels, accounting for its fat-mobilizing effects. In fact, the stimulation effect of DMAA is often compared to drinking 2-3 cups of coffee. While the Lilly company didn't perform much human testing of DMAA, some recent studies have tested its effects in human subjects. One problem with all of these studies is that they were paid for by supplement companies that sell DMAA products. As such, they stand to gain from the publication of positive studies about DMAA. Most of the studies have been "published' in online journals, in which you pay a fee to have the study published. On the other hand, the design of the studies were mostly double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover studies, meaning that they were scientifically acceptable, although all featured a small number of subjects.
     One such study showed that using a DMAA-based product resulted in a rise of glycerol (a marker of lipolysis, or fat breakdown in the blood) of 29% in men, 65% in women within 2 hours of ingesting a DMAA supplement. Free fatty acids in the blood rose by 92% in men;68% in women, while energy expenditure rose by 9% in men;24% in women. No explanation was offered for these gender-related differences. Another study tested the safety of DMAA products. This study found an average increase in heartbeat of 6 beats per minute after using a DMAA supplement, but no changes in blood pressure after 8 weeks of use compared to baseline measurements.There was also no effect in liver or kidney function. Men in the study averaged a 1.16% reduction in bodyfat, while women showed a 0.8% loss. The men also showed an average waist measurement reduction of 1.24 inches, while women showed a 0.78  inch loss.The subjects also reported a 24% drop in appetite after using the supplement. Other studies showed an slight rise in systolic blood pressure when DMAA supplement was first used, but the effect wore off after a few weeks. The study also showed that while subjects felt more energized after ingesting the DMAA supplement, their workout performance didn't change.
    Most of the stimulant and blood pressure effects of DMAA are comparable to drinking 2-3 cups of coffee.
   But just as too much coffee can prove toxic, so can overuse of DMAA,as evidenced by what happened to the New Zealand party people. DMAA supplements have been criticized by some, who say that germanium oil doesn't actually contain naturally existing DMAA. This critique was recently confirmed by a study published in the journal,Drug Testing and Analysis, which tested germanium oil and found no evidence of any naturally existing DMAA. This led the authors of the study to conclude that any DMAA found in a dietary supplement had to have been added to the product. The problem with this is that DMAA sold OTC in supplement form is permitted by virtue of the Dietary Supplement act because of its alleged natural existence in germanium oil. The fact that it isn't found in the oil means that all supplements that contain DMAA are being sold in violation of the law, since the DMAA is added to the supplement, and DMAA is a drug. Thus far, the FDA hasn't received any adverse reports about DMAA supplements, so no action has been taken. However, judging by what happened with ephedrine (DMAA is weaker than ephedrine) it is likely only a matter of time before people start to overdose on DMAA. When the adverse reports start appearing, the FDA will be able to immediately remove DMAA from the market, since it's now established that DMAA doesn't occur naturally in food or germanium oil.

 ©,2011 Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.


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