CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Soldiers will be the subjects of the first U.S. government study into the health consequences of a popular bodybuilding supplement that has recently flooded fitness store shelves, according to Army officials.
Officials at the Army Public Health Command told Stars and Stripes that they are in the process of identifying participants for a case control study on the effects of 1,3-dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, to determine if there is a link between the use of the amphetamine-like substance and reports of dangerous health conditions.
The military already has logged cases of kidney and liver failure, seizures, loss of consciousness, heat injury and muscle breakdown that might be connected to DMAA, which is an active ingredient in about 18 U.S. fitness products that claim to increase workout performance. After two soldiers died while training last year and autopsies revealed the substance in their bodies, products with DMAA were removed from exchange stores at military bases around the world, though they remain available off base and on the Internet.
“We are in the process of identifying potential Army participants and (we) are still finalizing study procedures,” according to a statement released by the command.
Results of the study are expected by late summer and will be released after Army and Department of Defense leadership are briefed.
As part of its safety review of DMAA, the Army also said it is also combing through reports of health problems from all branches of the military and following up with patients and providers.
“We are evaluating adverse health event cases possibly linked to DMAA products through a series of provider and patient interviews, and are applying established algorithms commonly used to assess side effects associated with drugs,” according to the statement.
The safety review has added to concerns over the potential side effects of DMAA, which is sold as a natural dietary supplement and has never been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Major League Baseball and the World Anti-Doping Agency have banned its use, and the government of New Zealand bars sales to anyone under 18.
There is also growing international consensus that DMAA is not a natural extract of geranium flowers, as claimed by supplement manufacturers, but actually a synthetic drug.
Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of bottles of fitness powders and pills containing DMAA have been sold in the U.S. over the past five years.
Supplement makers maintain that research has already proved it is safe.
A study published last month in a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal tracked 25 healthy men over 10 weeks and found no adverse health problems in those who took the substance, according to USPlabs. The company makes OxyElite Pro and Jack3d, two of the most popular DMAA fitness supplements.
“The findings of today’s study are consistent with previous 2-week and 8-week studies which found no significant increase in blood pressure or liver and kidney function following chronic use of DMAA and DMAA-containing supplements,” the company said.
USPlabs also cited four studies published online last fall that showed the substance did not seem to cause any negative effects to the blood, blood pressure or heart rate when taken by test subjects for a short period.