Is DMBA the new DMAA?

New research has found a DMAA-like substance popping up in dietary supplements. Is a new scandal on our hands?

A new study published in Drug Testing and Analysis found the presence of 1,3-Dimethylbutylamine (DMBA), a chemical analogue to the synthetic stimulant 1,3-Dimethylamylamine (DMAA), in 12 dietary supplements at a range of 12 to 130 milligrams. The health impacts of DMBA are unknown, but researchers are concerned by its similarity to DMAA, which has been linked to heart failure, strokes and the sudden deaths of two U.S. Army personnel. 

According to the study, DMBA may appear on product labels under several monikers including “AMP citrate,” “4-amino-2-pentanamine,” “Pentergy” and “4-AMP.” 

The finding comes hot on the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 2013 ban of DMAA in dietary supplements and a prolonged consumer class action battle against USPlabs, maker of the DMAA-containing weight loss and sports nutrition products OxyElite Pro and Jack3d.

Industry has already been more proactive about pushing FDA to act on DMBA than in its conflict with DMAA. In September, the Council for Responsible Nutrition requested that the agency investigate "AMP Citrate," which it referred to as an "illegal dietary ingredient." NSF International, an influential testing and certification organization, contributed to the study published in Drug Testing and Analysis. NSF's former head of dietary supplement testing, Ed Wyszumiala, was a vocal opponent of DMAA.

But DMAA-containing supplements had exploded in popularity, and the companies selling them had garnered enough sales and influence, before industry trade organizations were able to fully shun the substance. And DMAA had quickly become a focal point in industry's battle with FDA over what would constitute an acceptable dietary ingredient; all DMAA on the market was ostensiby produced synthetically, though it was in theory nature-identical to a form found in the essential oil of an obscure Chinese variety of geranium flower. (Similarly, some dietary supplement labels claim that DMBA is "extracted from pouchong tea.") 

Are we on the cusp of a DMAA-sized scandal? Considering FDA's swift response to quash another DMAA look-alike, dendrobium extract, it's unlikely that the agency will tolerate the spread of DMBA. But industry experts tend to agree: these high-profile synthetics represent just the tip of the iceberg of illegal substances that run rampant in the performance and weight loss markets.

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