I’m filing this away in the ‘non-shocking’ category. The dietary supplement industry has been caught again adding untested chemicals, and the FDA dropped the ball throughout the process.

The untested compound is chemically similar to the drug amphetamine, and has never been tested in people. Yeah, sounds safe.

What’s troubling is the FDA knew about the compound for years and did nothing to halt the sale of the supplements. The agency actually commissioned a study (2013), which tested 21 dietary supplements claiming to contain Acacia rigidula, a shrub native to Texas.

Nine of the supplements tested were found to contain the lab created compound, beta-methylphenethylamine (BMPEA), which is chemically similar to amphetamine. Normally when the government sees the word amphetamine, black helicopters swoop in.

dietary supplement bmpea amphetamine

In 2013? The FDA published the paper in a journal, but didn’t issue a consumer alert, or ask for manufacturers to pull the products. The government stance of people have to die first and then act still stands.

Assistant professor of medicine at Harvard, Dr. Pieter Cohen, didn’t pull any punches. He accused the FDA of gross negligence, saying the agency “did a lot of hard work to figure out this brand-new designer stimulant was in supplements … and then failed to inform the public. It’s inexplicable and inexcusable.”

The FDA’s answer? They do not have a specific safety concern at this time. I’m sure they are busy approving the latest slate of erectile dysfunction pills.

Dietary Supplement Study

Dr. Cohen’s team tested 21 supplements in the latest study to see if the compound was still present in Acacia rigidula supplements. Sixteen of the supplements were marketed for weight loss, three for athletic performance and one for cognitive enhancement.

Five brands overlapped this study and the one conducted by the FDA in 2013.

Researchers found 11 supplements containing BMPEA. If you followed dosing instructions for the supplements, you could be taking as much as 94 mg of BMPEA per day.

In case you are thinking this is a case of overreaction, it’s not. The World Anti-Doping Agency has already banned the substance. Studies conducted on cats and dogs in the 30s and 40s found BMPEA increased both heart rate and blood pressure.

Supplement Toxicity

With the FDA sitting on its hands, Dr.Cohen and his team issued their own warning in the journal, Drug Testing Analysis.

“Physicians should remain vigilant for patients presenting with toxicity from sports and weight-loss supplements, as they might contain undisclosed stimulants, such as BMPEA.”

“We recommend that supplement manufacturers immediately recall all supplements containing BMPEA, and that the FDA use all its enforcement powers to eliminate BMPEA as an ingredient in dietary supplements,” Cohen and colleagues wrote.

Even without the FDA acting, just go with a strong dose of common sense. If you are starting your weight loss quest, go with the tried and true method of eating healthy and exercising.


  • The FDA has the authority to remove products containing this substance. Even without evidence they are harmful. Acacia rigidula has never been used in herbal remedies, so the FDA has the regulatory authority to ban it.
  • A quick supplement industry fact? If the ingredient does not have a history of being used in herbal remedies or supplements, the manufacturer must submit information to the FDA.
  • The UK has a ban in place for Acacia rigidula. Regulators there are waiting for more evidence it is safe for human consumption.
  • DMAA – a compound discovered in supplements in 2006 was not removed until several deaths were linked to it.

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