In light of the recent inquiry linking a runner’s death last year in the London Marathon to the popular exercise stimulant Jack3d, an article today in Runner’s World draws attention to the perils of using dietary supplements.
Although the active ingredient in Jack3d and other legal performance supplements, a geranium extract called DMAA, is effectively considered food by the FDA, the user experience has arguably as much in common with party drugs or even meth as it does with a cup of coffee.
The makers of Jack3d, a company called USPlabs, say it "produces an intense sensation of drive, focus, energy, motivation & awareness," allowing for "rapid increases in strength, speed, power & endurance."
Thanks to the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, dietary supplements, unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, do not require rigorous FDA testing to come to market.
The FDA doesn’t need to approve them, and, apart from requiring self-reporting of adverse reactions by the supplement makers, it doesn’t get involved until after their safety is called into question.
That’s right: the only party who makes sure a product like Jack3d is safe before you mix it in your drink is the company that makes it.
And that only goes for the ingredients on the label.
“Because supplements are not regulated, consumers can’t really know what’s in them,” said Harvard researcher Pieter Cohen, M.D., to Runner’s World. “There’s a ton of profit to be made by putting questionable ingredients with questionable safety into supplements,” Cohen added.
In the case of DMAA, it wasn’t until the FDA received 42 “adverse event reports,” which included incidents of heart attack and death, that the agency sent an April, 2012, warning letter to ten manufacturers of the product, including the maker of Jack3d. Despite the warning, DMAA is still commercially available in the U.S.
In fact, DMAA was only introduced into the supplement market to replace ephedrine, which was re-categorized as a drug due to its link to methamphetamine, and has since become a party drug in its own right in New Zealand. (New Zealand also banned DMAA).
So before you hit up GNC to get the latest performance-boosting or fat-burning powder on the market, remember: you are the guinea pig.