1,3 Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) is a compound created as a nasal decongestant but is commonly used as a stimulant, nootropic, and weight loss aid. Several products have claimed that DMAA is extracted from geranium flowers, however careful analysis of the plants has determined this to be mostly false (1, 2).
Due to its stimulatory effects, DMAA is becoming increasingly popular in the bodybuilding community as a pre-workout supplement. DMAA is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances for in-competition use (3).
DMAA acts similar to cocaine and methamphetamine, had a high potential for abuse and may result in serious side effects
1DMAA stimulates energy. A 2011 study demonstrated that DMAA increases blood pressure without increasing heart rate (4).
This may be one of the primary mechanisms by which DMAA stimulates the body. Another 2012 study showed that DMAA was shown to have no effect on resting blood pressure when you are not taking it (5).
This would mean that DMAA ingestion increases blood pressure while using it, but once its effects have worn off blood pressure returns to normal resting levels.
2DMAA can help burn fat. A dietary supplement containing DMAA, OxyELITE Pro, contributed to body fat loss in 32 healthy adults when they ingested one capsule per day for fourteen days (6).
DMAA also increased fat breakdown and increased body temperature in 12 healthy adults, which is thought to lead to body fat loss in the long term (7).
3DMAA can improve physical performance. In rats, high doses of a dietary supplement containing DMAA improved exercise performance. However, after 4 weeks of daily consumption, it lost its effect (8).
4DMAA can improve short-term memory. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training showed that the consumption of 5.5 g of a dietary supplement containing DMAA improved reflexes and short-term memory (9).
1DMAA may cause liver damage. In 2013, 36 people taking a dietary supplement containing DMAA, were hospitalized for liver damage. Of the 36, one person died and two people required a liver transplant. All were taking the recommended dose of 1-3 scoops or capsules per day (10).
2DMAA may cause brain bleeding. There have been at least 3 reports of people with brain bleeding after the use of DMAA. However, the users reported consuming DMAA frequently with alcohol or caffeine (11).
A 2012 study demonstrated that a 26-year-old healthy man suffered a severe headache and brain bleeding after consuming 3 scoops (recommended dose) of a dietary supplement containing DMAA (12).
3DMAA may increase heart rate and blood pressure. The consumption of 2 capsules of a dietary supplement containing DMAA resulted in an increased heart rate and blood pressure in 12 healthy adults (13).
56 cases of DMAA exposure in healthy adults were analyzed for side effects, most (80%) from taking OxyELITE Pro before it was banned. Almost a third of the patients had a notable increase in heart rate, but that effect may be attributed to other substances like caffeine (14).
However, another 2013 study showed that a dose of 25 mg of DMAA didn’t have any effect on heart rate or blood pressure in 8 healthy adults (15).
4DMAA may cause heart attacks. A healthy 22-year-old man suffered a heart attack after consuming a dietary supplement containing DMAA and caffeine for 3 weeks (16).
5DMAA may cause nausea and vomiting. In one review, 15% of the 56 patients experienced nausea and vomiting after consuming DMAA supplements. Most were taking OxyElite Pro, so other substances in the product may have contributed to the side effects (17).
6 DMAA can cause false positives. Along with being on the WADA prohibited list, non-athletes who are drug tested for work or other reason should note that DMAA may give false positive results for amphetamines (18).
8DMAA can interact with drugs negatively. In a cell study, DMAA blocked the activity of two important enzymes (cytochrome P450 2D6 and 3A4), which break down approximately 25% of commonly used drugs.
They help to break down and remove antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids, and medications for heart problems. When blocked, drugs can build up in the body and reach dangerously high levels, possibly causing liver damage.
9DMAA can cause headaches. The major complaint that users had of DMAA was the presence of intense headaches after consuming the product for the first time. Also, some people suffered from headaches after they stopped taking DMAA.
10Other side effects that have been reported include panic attacks, seizures, tremors and headaches (21).
The content of DMAA in dietary supplements containing DMAA varies a lot, as it can range from 25 to 278 mg per capsule, depending on the product. A dosage of up to 75 mg DMAA and 250 mg caffeine was deemed “safe” as it didn’t increase heart rate (22, 23, 24).
Both Canada and the USA do not recommend DMAA as safe for use.
Health Canada has banned the market availability of DMAA due to insufficient research that proves its safety (25).
The US military has also banned DMAA from worldwide military exchanges (26).
The FDA has also banned DMAA and does not recommend it as safe for use (27).
Is DMAA dangerous? The concern is that DMAA may narrow blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure and lead to shortness of breath, tightening in the chest, or even heart attack.
Is DMAA a drug? Yes, the TGA has now made a ruling, announced today, and placed DMAA in appendix C of the scheduled drug list. DMAA is an aliphatic amine which looks a bit like amphetamine. Although it is a stimulant, it is not clear if DMAA actually works like amphetamine.
How long does DMAA stay in the body? When taken orally, DMAA takes around 8 minutes to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Its half-life in the human body is 8.5 hours on average, and it takes more than 24 hours to eliminate it completely from the body. Amphetamines can be detected in the blood for four to six hours, in the saliva for 24 to 48 hours, in urine for up to four days and in the hair for up to 90 days.
Is DMAA banned by WADA? Yes, DMAA is banned by WADA.
Is DMAA illegal? DMAA is not a dietary ingredient, and DMAA-containing products marketed as dietary supplements are illegal, and their marketing violates the law.
Is DMAA safe? According to the FDA, DMAA is not safe as at least 4 human deaths have been linked to the use of DMAA, including two active U.S. soldiers and a runner during a marathon
How is DMAA tested? DMAA concentration in the body can be measured in blood and urine to test for DMAA intoxication.
Is DMAA a flower? Although DMAA’s chemical structure is similar to compounds found in geraniums, the DMAA used in dietary supplements is synthetic.
Is Forthane the same as DMAA? Yes, DMAA is actually a drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Lily in the mid-1940s for use as a decongestant under the name Forthane. It was re-patented in the early 1970s and removed from the market by the end of that decade.
DMAA is a synthetic substance which can provide an array of benefits, both physical and mental. However, due to the number of deaths and documented side effects, it is currently banned for sale and use in both Canada and the US and is also on WADA’s prohibited substance list.
DMAA is currently not well researched, and much more research is necessary to fully understand its safety and potential use.