With the road ahead now appearing closed - or at least decidedly rocky - for pre-workout stimulant DMAA (1,3-Dimethylamylamine), attention is turning to alternatives. But could they be just as controversial?
Brian Andrews, president of California-based sports nutrition firm All American EFX, which makes the (DMAA-free) pre-workout product K-OTIC , says he hopes the furor over the stimulant will encourage more athletes and bodybuilders to seek out cleaner label products.
However, there is a certain supplement user that is just interested in results, he says. “While the public is definitely becoming more and more educated in this area, many still just want the result no matter what.
“Moreover, they figure that because it is ‘legal’, and they bought it over the counter, the product has to be safe. However, I believe that in time this scenario will switch.”
DMAA crackdown creates a level playing field
The crackdown on DMAA - if enforced - is a good thing for the industry, he says: “It levels the playing field and puts the focus on creating a more effective product based on having the proper amounts of efficacious ingredients rather than simply relying on the stimulant part of the formula.
“DMAA allows companies to get around this fact.”
But will it just be replaced by something just as controversial? Or remain in products - without appearing on the label?
“It’s hard to say [if firms will carry on using DMAA without labeling it]”, predicts Andrews. “But if anyone does this it will more likely be smaller companies with less to lose. They can put out a product quickly, sell it quickly, then disappear just as fast.”
As for alternatives, “the industry is always on the lookout for the next ‘big’ stimulant,” he adds.
“I can tell you that I know of one company which has product out right now that is growing by leaps and bounds. What people don’t know (yet) is that they are using a designer stimulant/amphetamine in it.
“What I’m not sure about is if they are knowingly doing it or if they have been duped by a raw material supplier and told that the ingredient they are buying is safe and effective. Time will tell.”
Fact DMAA was on WADA list was the first red flag
Is he surprised by the FDA action on DMAA?
No, says Andrews. It was always a matter of if, not when, he claims. “We first saw it about two years ago. The key thing for us was that it was already on the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) banned list.
“That was the first red flag for us. A little further research also revealed that it is actually (all things being equal) the chemical step-cousin to Ephedra.
“Once we knew that part, it was pretty easy to figure out that it would be banned sooner than later. Our strategy was to go out from day one with a product formulated with proper amounts of efficacious ingredients rather than simply relying on stimulants.
“Then, once the ban hit, we’d already be out there with a great alternative.”
He added: “When we first formulated K-OTIC, we always knew a day would come when DMAA would be banned… and now that day is here.
“Since K-OTIC is so effective, many people still have a hard time believing it’s 100% DMAA-free. But we have certificates of analysis to prove it.”
Attorney: 'DMAA appears to be climbing into the coffin and pulling the lid down on itself'
Although the legal battle over the regulatory status of DMAA is far from over, "as a product ingredient, DMAA appears to be climbing into the coffin and pulling the lid down on itself", Rick Collins, partner at New York-based law firm Collins, McDonald & Gann, told NutraIngredients-USA.
He added: "Market forces, combined with concerns over its legal status, have prompted many companies to pull the ingredient and replace it with substitutes before these lawsuits were even filed. But the legal wrangling will continue for a while.
"FDA’s warning letters were broad enough to encompass more than one interpretation as to why DMAA is illegal. There’s the threshold question of science: Is DMAA found in the geranium plant or not? We still don’t have a definitive answer.
"But even if it is found in the plant, various questions of law remain. Can a synthetic version of a botanical be a dietary ingredient? Does the drug-related history of DMAA exclude it from dietary ingredient status? Should a NDI notification have preceded marketing the ingredient? The legal battles are just heating up."
EDITOR'S NOTE: K-OTIC was mistakenly included in the US Department of Defense’s original list of DMAA-containing products recalled from stores on US army and air force bases in early December 2011.
However, the DoD acknowledged it had made an error and sent out a memorandum on December 22 clarifying that K-OTIC: “does NOT contain DMAA and should be removed from medical hold and returned to the shelves for purchase”.
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Click here to read about MusclePharm's reaction to the DMAA crackdown.