Methamphetamine Found in Supplements at GNC

A Harvard doc and his team made the startling discovery.

Supplements image via Shutterstock

Supplements image via Shutterstock

I’ve written this sentence at least 10 times over the past few years: Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The FDA only regulates supplements after they are on the market. (And right now, with the shutdown, no one is regulating anything, by the way.)

And yet, every time I write another story about it, people still seemed shocked. When I say unregulated, I mean unregulated. Supplements and vitamins are not tested, not inspected, and not studied. The labels are not inspected, studied, or checked. This past summer, seemingly harmless vitamin B supplements from a company called “Healthy Life” were found to have anabolic steroids in them. And just last week, a supplement called OxyElite Pro was linked to acute hepatitis.

Basically, you could crush up some baking soda, put it in a capsule, call it Super Fat Burn, and then sell it on the Internet, and no one would know a thing. You could write on the label that it’s 100 percent organic greenweed imported from Malaysia and no one would give it a second glance. Hire a PR team, get it in the hands of every major celebrity, put it in fitness magazines that promise you can lose 10 pounds this month on the cover, pay for some promoted Facebook posts, and boom, you’ve sold millions… of baking soda capsules.

Harvard doctor Pieter Cohen and his team must be as skeptical as I am because they conducted a study of a mainstream pre-workout supplement called Craze, and they found unlabeled methamphetamine analog in the samples. The team purchased Craze at GNC and Natural Health Shoppe. The study was published Monday in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis. According to Runner’s World, Craze was named “New Supplement of the Year” by in 2012. And it’s currently in the running for Pre-Workout Supplement of the Year in 2013.

So let’s look at who is responsible for making Craze. His name is Matt Cahill, and while he was busy making the new product and getting it in stores, he was waiting to be sent to prison for selling what USA Today called, “dangerous weight-loss pills.”

According to an investigative piece published last month in USA Today:

Cahill was facing federal charges for mixing a highly toxic pesticide with baking powder, stuffing it in capsules and selling it over the Internet for weight loss.

The new steroid, to Cahill’s knowledge, had never before been tested on humans until he and a few friends tried it themselves for a few weeks before putting it on sale in 2004.

Over the course of a nearly 12-year career, Cahill has continued to launch new and risky products, flourishing in the $30 billion dietary supplement industry as federal regulators struggled to keep up with his changing series of companies, a USA TODAY investigation has found. Some who took his steroid suffered liver damage while others who consumed the weight-loss pills ingested a chemical that had been banned for human use in the 1930s after users went blind.

So again, just to be clear, if you think something is safe because it’s sold in a chain like GNC, or that an Ivy-league trained scientist is making your supplement in a clean lab, you’re wrong. We don’t know where many of these supplements are coming from. And while there are most likely some legit vitamins and supplements out there, the bad apples ruin it for everyone. People are mixing toxic chemicals and untested steroids in their dirty basement and passing it off as something that is good for you. Just because it is sold in a store with the word “healthy” in it doesn’t make it healthy.