Fitness supplements found laced with prohibited stimulants

Trainer Leigh Pujado avoids banned supplements.

Supplement companies do not care about you or your health. For decades they have been selling powders and pills promising things like weight loss while poisoning the unsuspecting people who take them.

The latest round of harmful products came to light in a study published on March 23 by Clinical Toxicology. The study had the somewhat unwieldy title, Nine prohibited stimulants found in sports and weight loss supplements: deterenol, phenpromethamine (Vonedrine), oxilofrine, octodrine, beta-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), 1,3-dimethylamylamine (1,3-DMAA), 1,4-dimethylamylamine (1,4-DMAA), 1,3-dimethylbutylamine (1,3-DMBA) and higenamine.

Researchers tested 17 sports and weight loss supplements, and they discovered nine prohibited stimulants. In the study, the researchers “refer to prohibited stimulants as those that have been prohibited in dietary supplements by the FDA and/or prohibited in sport by the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

Many of the supplements had more than one prohibited ingredient. Four of the brands had two prohibited stimulants, two of the brands had three stimulants, and two of the brands combined four prohibited stimulants in a single bottle.

The common ingredient in all of them was something called deterenol. If you search for supplements with deterenol in them, you’ll probably come up empty-handed. But deterenol is known by several names, including isopropylnorsynephrine, isopropylnorsynephrine HC1, N-isopropylnorsynephrine HC1 and isopropyloctopamine.

When we searched for supplements using one of the synonyms for deterenol, more than a dozen popped right up. They were being promoted and sold on workout websites, Instagram, Facebook and Amazon.

It’s important to understand that deterenol has never been approved for use in humans in the United States. In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that deterenol is not permitted as an ingredient in dietary supplements.

Investigators have linked individual supplements to “nausea, vomiting, sweating, agitation, palpitations, chest pain and cardiac arrest.” Those supplements with two, three, four or more stimulants randomly thrown together “have never been tested in humans and their safety is unknown.”

Before you jump to the defense of any supplement you’re taking, consider this. In a 2014 study, one-third of the “herbal supplements” researchers purchased didn’t have any of the bottle’s advertised ingredients. Product substitution was revealed in 30 of the 44 products tested.

You wouldn’t buy milk if one-third of the bottles had an “unidentified white liquid” inside. Why buy supplements that have the same track record?

In 2013, there were about 55,000 different types of supplements sold in the United States. The FDA estimates 70% of the companies making those products are not taking the simple steps needed to prevent their products from becoming adulterated.

But that’s not the terrifying part.

According to Dr. Paul A. Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an expert on dietary supplements, only 170 of those 55,000 supplements have been studied thoroughly enough to determine their common side effects. That means we only have good information on less than 0.31% of all the supplements currently for sale.

Regular readers of this column know that supplements are not tested like drugs. When a supplement company releases a new product, no government agency checks to make sure it works first. Dosages are not verified. Ingredients are not confirmed. Claims on the label are entirely up to the supplement company.

Supplement companies are not regulated by the FDA. They are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The government only steps in once they start hearing complaints of injury or death.

This study of sports and weight loss supplements is just one of dozens going back more than 30 years, showing the dangers of this unregulated industry. If you pick up a bottle suggesting it will help you lose weight or improve your workout, there’s less than a one percent chance a double-blind clinical study has been conducted to verify that claim.

Despite all this information, there will still be plenty of people who want to believe that a better body is hiding in a magical supplement. At the very least, check the label. One-third of the time, you can expect it will be a complete lie.

However, if you’re lucky and you’ve chosen one that’s telling the truth, look for these names; Deterenol, isopropylnorsynephrine, isopropylnorsynephrine HC1, N-isopropylnorsynephrine HC1 or isopropyloctopamine. If any of them are on the label, don’t buy it. They are proudly proclaiming they contain an ingredient that’s been prohibited by the FDA since 2004.

You really shouldn’t give money to companies that don’t take the most basic steps to protect your life. They don’t care about your health. Quit falling for their lies and quit giving them money.

Check with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program. For a free consultation with a WeBeFit trainer, call 305-296-3434. Read articles online at and get updates by following us on Facebook.