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Potentially Harmful Stimulants Found in Six Weight-Loss and Pre-Workout Supplements

NSF scientist says four DMAA-like stimulants disguised as “2-aminoisoheptane” pose a significant health risk to consumers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Researchers at global public health organization NSF, Harvard Medical School, the United States Department of Defense and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands (RIVM) recently identified four unapproved, DMAA-like stimulants in six over-the-counter weight-loss and pre-workout products currently available in the United States. The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology.

The potentially harmful compounds – including unlawful dietary ingredients 1,3-DMAA and 1,3-DMBA as well as octodrine and a newly identified DMAA analog – were not listed as ingredients in the products and may have been disguised as “2-aminoisoheptane” or extract of Aconitum kusnezoffii. These stimulants may cause adverse cardiac events, hemorrhagic strokes or sudden death, especially if taken prior to strenuous exercise or combined with caffeine. Extreme heat and dehydration may also increase the health risks.

“Consumers need to be careful when taking supplements, especially pre-workout and weight-loss products. You can’t always trust what’s on the label,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Internist at Cambridge Health Alliance and a co-author of the study. "These hidden stimulants are drugs, not natural ingredients, and have no place in over-the-counter supplements."

The unapproved designer stimulants may be pharmacologically similar to ephedrine, a compound derived from ephedra, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned in 2004 due to serious side effects and deaths. Since then, scientists at NSF have identified many unapproved and potentially dangerous replacement stimulants used in dietary supplements, including DEPEA, DMAA, DMBA and oxilofrine.

“Most supplement manufacturers are committed to ensuring quality and safety, but there are a few irresponsible and unscrupulous companies out there and their actions are putting consumers at risk,” said John Travis, Senior Research Scientist at NSF and a co-author of the study.

Based on the latest study, “2-aminoisoheptane” and Aconitum kusnezoffii appear to be new disguises for unapproved synthetic stimulants like 1,3-DMAA, 1,3-DMBA, octodrine and the previously unidentified DMAA-analog, 1,4-DMAA (also known as 2-amino-5-methylhexane). While “2-aminoisoheptane” is becoming increasingly popular in weight-loss and pre-workout products, the research team sees no evidence that it is a legitimate dietary ingredient derived from plants.

Based on the study findings, the researchers are encouraging consumers to avoid products that are labeled as containing “2-aminoisoheptane” or Aconitum kusnezoffii. The study found the following pre-workout and weight-loss products contain potentially harmful quantities of illegal or unapproved dietary ingredients:



Banned or Unapproved Compounds

Game Day

MAN Sports



Gold Star



Chaos and Pain


Simply Skinny Pollen

Bee Fit with Trish

1,3-DMAA* and 1,4-DMAA

Cannibal Ferox AMPED

Chaos and Pain


Triple X

Gold Star


*Previously found to be unlawful dietary ingredients by the U.S. FDA

“This is why NSF developed a testing and certification program that verifies supplement labels are accurate and products are free from harmful levels of contaminants such as DMAA and DMBA or other potentially harmful compounds. We urge consumers to seek NSF-certified dietary supplements to avoid unintentionally consuming harmful compounds,” Travis said.

NSF led the development of the only accredited American National Standard for dietary supplements (NSF/ANSI 173), which became the foundation of NSF’s accredited dietary supplement certification program in 2001. The program includes a label and formulation review, testing for harmful levels of contaminants and facility audits twice a year to confirm compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). Products certified under NSF’s Certified for Sport® program must meet additional requirements and are screened for more than 270 athletic banned substances. Players in the NHL, CFL and Major League Baseball are required to choose Certified for Sport® products. The certification is also recommended by the NFL, PGA, LPGA, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), CPSDA and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.

According to Travis, independent certification of supplements helps weed out illegal and non-compliant products and ingredients from the marketplace. “NSF’s dietary supplement and Certified for Sport® certification programs help retailers, consumers and athletes make more educated decisions knowing that what is on the label matches what is in the container, and that they are not consuming any unintended substances,” Travis said.

For more information about NSF’s dietary supplement certification programs, visit Learn more from the Exposing Harmful Ingredients in Dietary Supplements infographic.

About NSF: NSF ( is an independent global organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the dietary supplement, food, water, consumer goods and health sciences industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. Operating in more than 170 countries, NSF is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI-Accredited Product Certification Body - Accreditation #0216) to certify dietary supplements and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality and Indoor Environment.

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