HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel recently aired a report revealing the widespread use of potentially dangerous, under-regulated supplements in the military. The same or similar supplements are used elsewhere, but the percentage of users in the military increases dramatically due to the demanding physical training soldiers undergo.
Certain supplements used by athletes and soldiers as a way to legally get bigger, faster, and stronger, were found to contain injurious ingredients similar to amphetamines. Since dietary supplements are not regulated to the same extent as prescription drugs, harmful ingredients in supplements has been a major issue for fitness fanatics for some time. As Real Sportsreported, supplements are highly prevalent on military bases causing the armed forces to be especially hard hit by these harmful ingredients.
More specifically, roughly half of all US military members are estimated to be using some form of supplement. To fulfill the demand for nutritional supplements there are 130 GNC retail stores on military bases across the US. Through its investigation, HBO found hundreds of health problems related to the use of supplements. Some were so severe that they necessitated soldiers to be airlifted out of combat zones after suffering emergency medical conditions like hepatitis.
One ingredient of particular infamy is DMAA, or dimethylamylamine. The ingredient is found in the supplement Jack3d. A young Army private stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas was using Jack3d when he suffered a fatal heart attack. The private had purchased Jack3d at an on base supplement store. DMAA elevates the heart rate, and leads to high blood pressure which are both precursors to a heart attack. DMAA is currently a banned ingredient.
Supplements are governed by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. There is no pre-approval under the act, and supplements may be sold without strict oversight. It is therefore unsurprising that nutritional supplements contain ingredients that are unknown or untested. Clinical trials on humans nor approval by regulators is required before supplements hit the market. DMAA is now a banned ingredient, and cannot legally be added to supplements. Hopefully, further oversight to ban more harmful supplement additives will be implemented before further tragedy strikes.