If you’ve been taking a supplement to build muscle, lose fat or for any other purpose, you may want to put down the pill bottle and read this new report from Vox. Reporters there dug through a series of court filings, government databases and scientific research and found that more than 850 consumer supplements contained hidden ingredients, including illegal drugs, pharmaceuticals and “other synthetic chemicals that have never been tested on humans.”
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The flagged supplements were marketed for a wide variety of purposes, including boosting memory and sexual enhancement—in addition to those that purported to add muscle or strip fat from a person’s frame. Eighty-one supplements contained anabolic steroids, and nearly all of them labeled themselves as muscle builders. The over 100 supplements that contained the amphetamine-like DMAA or it’s synthetic cousin DMBA claimed many purposes, from weight loss to pre-workout energy boosters to “brain enhancers.”
DMAA was banned by the FDA and the U.S. Military after being linked to the deaths of two U.S. soldiers. Although a military investigation found the additive was not solely responsible for the fatalities, the FDA is working to get the substance off the market.
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If you’re wondering how legally sold, over-the-counter supplements can contain illegal drugs and other banned substances, the answer is simple: Under U.S. law, supplements can contain whatever their producers want. Manufacturers do not have to show that their products are safe or effective before they bring them to market. According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the burden is on the government to prove that an item is misleading or contains something unsafe.
If you’re taking a supplement and want to make sure it’s legit, check out this new report. If you’re shopping for supplements, until the government decides to get responsible and start testing items before they come to market, your best bet is to look for a label indicating an item is NSF-Certified for Sport or has been verified by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.
Vox: “UNREGULATED: The Hidden Drugs in Your Favorite Supplements”