Taylor Hooton Foundation > Hoot’s Corner > Podcasts > Episode 39: Contamination & Adulteration of Dietary Supplements – Dr. Pieter Cohen
March 23, 2021
Episode 39: Contamination & Adulteration of Dietary Supplements – Dr. Pieter Cohen

The ALL ME® Podcast

Contamination and Adulteration of Dietary Supplements – Dr. Pieter Cohen                   

Do you really know what’s in the dietary supplements you’re taking? Would you be surprised if you found out that your multivitamin contained an anabolic steroid or if the pre-workout you were taking contained a banned amphetamine like compound? How concerned would you be if the product you were taking also contained the anti-depressant Lexapro? With over 50% of the US population taking dietary supplements, it’s important to not only know what you’re taking but most importantly understand if it’s safe for consumption. In this podcast, I speak with Dr. Pieter Cohen whose work is dedicated to researching the dietary supplement adulteration industry. We’ll discuss the FDA and their lack of regulation along with what they can do to improve policing the industry, what dietary supplement adulteration is and what type of harmful ingredients that are being found in dietary supplements that are not tested.

Pieter Cohen, MD

Dr. Pieter Cohen, a graduate of Yale School of Medicine, is an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a practicing internist at Cambridge Health Alliance (Somerville, Massachusetts) whose area of research is the safety of dietary supplements. — particularly investigating the safety of sports and weight loss supplements.  Along with analytic chemistry colleagues he has spent the last decade exploring the boundaries between drugs and supplements.  His work has been published in the New England Journal of MedicineJAMAJAMA Internal MedicineAmerican Journal of Public Health and Annals of Internal Medicine.


Biography: https://connects.catalyst.harvard.edu/Profiles/display/Person/21925

Research Links

Cohen PA, Sharfstein J, Kamugisha A, Vanhee C. Analysis of Ingredients of Supplements in the National Institutes of Health Supplement Database Marketed as Containing a Novel Alternative to Anabolic Steroids. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Apr 01; 3(4):e202818. PMID: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32293681/

Cohen PA. The FDA and Adulterated Supplements-Dereliction of Duty. JAMA Netw Open. 2018 10 05; 1(6):e183329: PMID: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30646231/

Cohen PA, Travis JC, Keizers PHJ, Boyer FE, Venhuis BJ. The stimulant higenamine in weight loss and sports supplements. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2019 02; 57(2):125-130.PMID: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30188222/

Cohen PA, Travis JC, Keizers PHJ, Deuster P, Venhuis BJ. Four experimental stimulants found in sports and weight loss supplements: 2-amino-6-methylheptane (octodrine), 1,4-dimethylamylamine (1,4-DMAA), 1,3-dimethylamylamine (1,3-DMAA) and 1,3-dimethylbutylamine (1,3-DMBA). Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2018 06; 56(6):421-426. PMID: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29115866/ 


DMAA – Dimethylamylamine or 1,3-dimethylamylamine is a drug made synthetically in a laboratory. It was originally used as a nasal decongestant. Today, dimethylamylamine is sold as a dietary supplement used for attention deficit-hyperactive disorder (ADHD), weight loss, improving athletic performance, and body building.

DMBA – Dimehtylbutylamine or 1,3 – dimethylbutylamine is an ingredient in some pre-workout and weight-loss supplements. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that DMBA is not approved for use in dietary supplements. No reliable scientific studies have been conducted to establish the safety of health effects of DMBA. As its name (1,3-dimethybutylamine) suggests, DMBA is similar to the illegal ingredient DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine): Both are synthetic stimulants with potentially dangerous side effects, but they are not the same chemical.

Higenamine – Higenamine is a stimulant with cardiovascular properties recently prohibited in sport by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Higenamine is also a natural constituent of several traditional botanical remedies and is listed as an ingredient in weight loss and sports supplements sold over-the-counter in the United States.

Proprietary Blend – this is when a dietary supplement company combines a variety of ingredients but does not disclose the dosage of each ingredient. This is common in many pre-workout supplements or supplements with a variety of ingredients in order for the company to often hide a weak formula or a banned or prohibited substance.

Did You Know?

  • The Taylor Hooton Foundation has an education program on Nutrition and Dietary Supplement Safety
  • Up to 25% of Dietary Supplements are contaminated with illegal drugs and banned substances.

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