Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Stroke fears spur Govt ban on weight-loss and sports-performance drug

Peter Dunne. File photo / Ross Setford
Peter Dunne. File photo / Ross Setford

A common ingredient in weight-loss and sports-performance supplements is to be banned in New Zealand after at least one user suffered a stroke.

Yesterday, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne used legislation brought in to combat synthetic cannabis products to ban the substance, commonly known as DMAA.

It acts as an stimulant and is also used in a variety of party pills.

DMAA-containing sports-nutrition products such as Jack3d - a "pre-workout booster" - sell well because they increase energy, concentration and metabolism.

Also known as geranium extract, DMAA is already banned by many sports federations and its use has shown up in tests on athletes including Springboks Bjorn Basson and Chilliboy Ralepele.

Its use in New Zealand has led to health concerns including increased blood pressure, headaches and vomiting.

Dr Leo Schep of the National Poisons Centre in Dunedin said in at least one case, a user of sports-nutrition products had suffered a stroke.

"There are people out there who are susceptible. And people in New Zealand have stroked out - they've had strokes."

Last month, the United States army pulled sports-nutrition products containing DMAA from stores on military bases while a review is carried out into the deaths of two soldiers who had heart attacks during fitness exercises.

DMAA was identified in the toxicology reports on the deaths, and the army received reports of liver and kidney failure and seizures in other soldiers who used DMAA-containing products.

But manufacturers claim the products are safe when used as directed, a view shared by Andrew Honore, owner of Endorphin Systems high-performance sports store in Onehunga.

Mr Honore said only about five of the 3000 products he stocked contained the stimulant, but some of those were popular.

He had sold products containing DMAA for about seven years and had never heard of customers having problems.

Issues only arose when the party-pill industry began using DMAA in high concentrates as a replacement for the banned BZP (benzylpiperazine).

"They tend to push the envelope a bit, and started selling it as a pure powder, which means you could snort the stuff straight," Mr Honore said.

"Then it was being combined with alcohol and stuff, and that's where a lot of the problems come ... A lot of it should be more an education thing as opposed to a complete ban on it."

But Mr Dunne said he had received reports of ill-health as a result of DMAA sports-nutrition products, which is why the ban was all encompassing.

"Strokes and cerebral haemorrhages, plus some of the other lesser conditions ... it seemed to me that it was precisely the same sort of risk as some of the substances we had previously withdrawn."

DMAA is the first substance other than a synthetic cannabinoid to be banned using the Temporary Class Drug Notices, and is expected to be off the market by early next month.

DMAA
* Dimethylamylamine - also known as geranium extract.
* Used in party pills, sports nutrition and weight-loss supplements.
* Banned by sports bodies.
* Linked to increased blood pressure, and to strokes (rare).
* To be banned by legislation used to target synthetic cannabis products.

- NZ Herald

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