Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: The hazards of illegal supplements

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The hazards of illegal supplements

In the 2012 London Marathon, a 30 year old woman named Claire Squires tragically died with about a mile to go. At the end of January, a coroner ruled that the most likely cause of her death was a single dose of Jack3d, a performance-enhancing supplement that at the time was legal to buy, possess and use. The inquest had found that she had purchased the Jack3d powder online, where it was advertised as workout aid or a weight-loss supplement that boosted energy, concentration and metabolism. This powder when added to water contains the amphetamine-like stimulant DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine), which is linked to psychiatric disorders, heart attacks, strokes and a death. It was also on the list of substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

At the inquest, her partner said..."Claire was always in the gym, where this stuff was being widely talked about. She took it a couple of times [while training for the marathon] but didn't really get on with it. She never particularly liked it but wanted to beat her previous marathon time [of just over four hours]. She said she was going to take one scoop, as recommended. In her own words, 'if I hit a bit of a wall, I might take this drink and see if it pushes me through the end of the marathon'. Claire was passionately against the use of drugs and would never, ever, have taken anything that would have caused her harm or even worse risked her life. She innocently took a supplement which at the time was entirely legal, and widely available on the high-street, and somewhat worryingly, apparently used by so many others. It's clear there needs to be far better supervision of the so-called health foods and supplements industry so that no more tragedies like this happen again, causing other families to … go through what we have been through this past year."

That supplement, with its amphetamine-type effects, was to be banned four months after the London Marathon by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK.

In July 2012, the Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) and the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) issued a strong precautionary message for consumers on the health dangers of taking food supplements or products containing the substance DMAA.

DMAA is an illegal central nervous system stimulant related to amphetamine and has been found in food and sports supplements. It can cause high blood pressure, nausea, cerebral haemorrhage, stroke and in serious cases can be fatal. Consumers are advised not to purchase food supplements or products containing DMAA which may be available in retail outlets or online. People are advised that if they are feeling any ill effects after taking any of these food supplements/products that they should contact their doctor and retain/present the product in question. They are also advised to dispose of any additional food supplements/products listed below that they may have purchased.

List of known products containing DMAA:
1. Hemodrene
2. Hemorush
3. Crack
4. Marrow Matters
5. Jack3d
6. Spriodex
7. Napalm
8. Lipo-6 Black

The FSAI is aware that food supplements containing DMAA have been imported into Ireland and are available online. The FSAI has requested environmental health officers to check retail outlets to determine if food supplements or products containing DMAA are on sale. Sport, health stores and Irish-based companies selling these products online are advised to remove any food supplements or products containing DMAA from sale.

Professor John Brewer of the University of Bedfordshire sums it up as follows......."If you look at 20 miles into a marathon, you will already be dehydrated and that is putting extra strain on the body and causing the heart rate to be higher, body temperature to be higher. Your heart rate is probably 160-180 beats per minute. If you then take a stimulant to enable you to run through the very difficult last five or six miles of a marathon and to ignore many of the signals the body is giving out ... you therefore artificially enable to push yourself too hard, then you are running a grave risk of doing something damaging to your body. If somebody offers you a product that they suggest is going to suddenly revolutionise your performance, you can bet your bottom dollar that either everyone else will have been using it and you will already have heard about it, or there is something not quite right about it. When you see claims on supplements that claim they are some form of wonder product – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true."

Needless to say, there is a vast amount of information and advice on the Internet about how to improve your running times and performance. You should always be very wary about any advice that recommends that you consume a particular product, especially if you don't know where it comes from.

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