Filed under: Supplements
Up-to-date information on tainted products marketed as dietary supplements are now provided on HPRC’s Dietary Supplement domain page via a “widget” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recent product alerts and health information on products marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding are automatically displayed and updated as the FDA adds new notifications. Please see this new feature by visiting HPRC’s Dietary Supplements section.
HPRC has written about energy drinks and their possible adverse health effects; these drinks continue to be in the news following the death of a teenage girl due to caffeine toxicity from drinking two Monster energy drinks. Senator Dick Durbin has now urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate energy drinks, specifically to regulate caffeine in these drinks (caffeine content in colas is already regulated) and determine whether other ingredients contained in them are safe. Read the press release and Senator Durbin’s letter to FDA.
What do you put in your body to boost your performance, increase your energy, shed pounds, build muscle, or otherwise supplement your diet? What’s in that drink, pill, or powder? What will it do for you? What will it do to you? Is it worth the risk?
More and more Warfighters are taking dietary supplements, most without being fully informed that some of the ingredients could have harmful side effects. HPRC has just unveiled its Dietary Supplement Classification System to provide this kind of information and help you make informed decisions about a particular supplement. To start exploring this new resource, visit HPRC’s new web pages. If you have a question, contact us via “Ask the Expert.”
Jack3d (sometimes known as “Jacked”) is, according to the bottle, a “powerful pre-workout supplement that increases your capacity to perform.” HPRC did an extensive search for evidence-based information on Jack3d and found that all the apparently scientific literature on the product led to its promotional website, where they offer their own reviews. Anyone taking supplements should know that there have been reports about “tainted” dietary supplements containing active ingredients of FDA-approved drugs or other compounds that are not classified as dietary supplements. But there are still testimonials, blog entries, and bodybuilding forums touting the effects of Jack3d. It’s important to know exactly what is in Jack3d and that there isn’t any information on how much of each individual ingredient is in a serving.
The label of Jack3d says that it contains 4145 mg of a “Proprietary Blend” in one scoop, with 45 servings per container. In that blend are the ingredients:
- arginine alpha-ketoglutarate,
- creatine monohydrate,
- beta alanine,
- 1,3-dimethylamylamine (geranium [stem]), and
- schizandrol A,
- as well as some flavoring and color additives.
So, what does this all mean to a consumer? There have been individual studies conducted on each of the ingredients in Jack3d. Some are more effective than others for potentially enhancing athletic performance and building muscle mass. For example, creatine may increase muscle mass and enhance exercise performance during short, high-intensity repeated exercise bouts. For more information about creatine, see HPRC’s research brief. We know that 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA), a chemical from the geranium plant and also synthetically made, is used in supplements promoted for weight loss, bodybuilding, and enhanced athletic performance. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, it’s thought to have stimulant effects. Its chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, and it is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list. No scientific literature exists on the effectiveness of DMAA for weight loss, bodybuilding, or enhanced athletic performance. Caution is advised on the use of DMAA with caffeine, since both have stimulant effects and could increase the chance of increased heart rate and blood pressure.
The amount of caffeine per scoop of Jack3d has not been released, although it has been estimated that there is less than 150 mg of caffeine/scoop. Caffeine is included on the FDA’s list as a substance “generally recognized as safe.” However, the FDA has established a maximum concentration for caffeine in cola beverages: 32.4 mg per 6 oz or 71 mg per 12 oz. Other than colas, the caffeine content of food and beverages is not regulated. The label of Jack3d states: “Do not use in combination with caffeine or any stimulants from other sources whatsoever, including but not limited to, coffee, tea, soda and other dietary supplements or medications.” Caffeine seems to increase physical endurance, but it does not seem to affect activities that require high exertion over a short period of time, such as lifting.
The main issue with Jack3d is the same one that exists with many bodybuilding products on the market. There is no way to judge the interaction between the ingredients, especially when the consumer is unable to determine how much of each ingredient is in the product. This product contains multiple ingredients and, potentially, additional and potent ingredients not listed. It also could be contaminated, as has been seen with many other supplements. The FDA has put together information on tainted products promoted for bodybuilding.
It is important to mention that Jack3d comes with serious warnings on its label. As with any supplement, be educated, be advised, and consider all the unknowns before you decide whether the possible benefits are worth risking your health.
The marketing and selling of dietary supplement products has become a 20-billion-plus industry. Consumers are bombarded with ads, and some people turn to them as “healthier” choices to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Consumers should seek products that have been properly manufactured and should be aware of potential interactions with medications. For other important tips, read the article “Prepared Patient: Vitamins & Supplements, Before You Dive In”.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has information for consumers regarding dietary supplements: Questions and answers, regulations, and safety alerts. Click here for their website.
Lazy Cakes Relaxation Brownies claim to “have relaxation built into every bite.” One brownie (half is the recommended serving size) contains 3 mg of melatonin, a hormone made by the body but also available as a supplement that is often used to treat sleep disorders and jet lag. Selling these brownies as a dietary supplement allows the manufacturer to avoid FDA regulation for foods and beverages. The label warns consumers not to drive or operate heavy machinery and to consult your physician if you are taking medication or are pregnant or nursing; it also says the product is recommended for adults only. Buyers beware…this is no typical brownie.
We’ve seen all the recent news and reports about energy drinks and the concern about the amount of caffeine in these products. Now a new wave of products is gaining attention, aimed at helping us relax, reducing our anxiety, and helping us sleep. These “relaxation beverages,” or “anti-energy drinks,” contain ingredients such as melatonin, valerian root, kava, St. John’s Wort, L-theanine, rose hips, and chamomile. A great number of relaxation beverages have been introduced into the market over the last three years, with names such as “Dream Water,” “iChill,” “Vacation in a Bottle,” and “Unwind.” Consumers of any age can buy these drinks in convenience stores, college campuses, and online.
Part of the problem with these relaxation drinks is that some of their ingredients, particularly melatonin, have not gone through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process required for all food ingredients to be designated as safe or GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”). Melatonin is a hormone made by the body, but it is also available as a supplement and is often used to treat sleep disorders and jet lag. The FDA sent a warning letter last year to the manufacturers of the “Drank” beverage saying, “there is no food additive regulation in effect that provides for the safe use of melatonin…Likewise, we are not aware of any basis to conclude that melatonin is GRAS for use in conventional foods.” The manufacturers of “Drank” want their product to be classified as a dietary supplement, not as a beverage, since the FDA scrutinizes foods and beverages much more closely than dietary supplements.
People who have liver problems, liver disease, or are taking prescription drugs should be cautious about using the herb kava, an ingredient found in some of these relaxation drinks. Kava has been linked to severe liver injury, and the FDA issued a consumer advisory in 2002 with a warning that kava-containing dietary supplement products have been associated with liver-related injuries, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Valerian root, a medicinal herb, is used to treat sleep disorders as well as anxiety. Although some research has been conducted on the effects of valerian on insomnia, the data are mixed, and no studies have tested the safety and effectiveness of the combination of ingredients found in relaxation beverages.
The marketing of relaxation drinks is also of concern, as it is geared toward a younger crowd, with bottles resembling the look of popular energy drinks and shots. The concern is that young adults will think nothing of having more than one of these a day. Some of these beverages have warnings on their labels stating that users should not consume them before operating/driving machinery or if pregnant or nursing.
What’s the bottom line? Buyers beware! There’s no magic pill, and there’s no magic beverage. Try to determine the causes of your stress and/or insomnia, address those issues, and then work towards establishing a healthy lifestyle overall.
A recent systematic review found that nutritional and herbal supplements may be an effective way to treat anxiety and anxiety related problems without serious side effects. Although scientists reported that positive outcomes may be due to a placebo effect*, based on the review, there is scientific evidence to support the use of certain nutritional and herbal supplements to treat these conditions. If you are currently being treated for anxiety, discuss with your physical the option of using or including a natural supplement.
* A placebo effect is the beneficial effect in a patient following a particular treatment that arises from the patient's expectations concerning the treatment rather than from the treatment itself.
The FDA does not strictly regulate dietary supplements. As a result, supplements may not be as pure as stated on the label and may have potentially harmful contaminants. When purchasing dietary supplements, choose products approved by United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or other reputable sources.