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Ask Dr. Mike: Weight Loss Supplements that Contain Amphetamines & Curcumin Dosing

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

I understand that some weight loss products were found to contain amphetamines. Why should we believe anything coming out of the supplement industry?

Unfortunately, this did in fact happen and was revealed by a Harvard study released this month.

What was reported was that 11 "all natural" weight loss supplements contained BMPEA, which the researchers are calling a close chemical cousin to amphetamines.

Many things in nature, or products developed in a lab, can resemble the same effects of amphetamines, like a boost of energy and decrease in appetite. The specific products that were studied also contained a Texas shrub, blackbrush, on the labels. The manufacturers could be hiding the amphetamines within the blackbrush. Since blackbrush contains natural BMPEA, they could blame the amphetamines on the BMPEA.

But here's the thing that makes Dr. Mike disgusted: blackbrush has never previously been shown to contain any amphetamine cousin of any kind. So, the manufacturers might have lied.

This makes Dr. Mike very frustrated, since something like this can turn consumers like yourself away. Dr. Mike doesn't want companies such as these ruining the reputation of other, highly credible companies.

I tried taking 500 mg of curcumin, and after two weeks I noticed lower back muscle discomfort and joint pain. It did help with anxiety, though. Many symptoms were similar to statins and niacins, which I also can't take in significant doses.

Curcumin isn't one of Dr. Mike's foundational nutrients in the supplement pyramid, but if he had to pick a fifth one, curcumin would be it.

Dr. Mike thinks you may not be doing the best formulation of curcumin, which is BCN-95. The appropriate dose of that is 400 mg.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 7, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR. MIKE: So, my first question came in just last night and I thought this was important that I share this with you and, hopefully, I can help Mark feel a little bit better about the supplement industry. The question is:

"I understand that some weight loss products were found to contain amphetamines. Why should we believe anything coming out of the supplement industry? Disgusted, Mark."

Yes. Okay, so I wasn't aware of what Mark was referring to so, again, working at Life Extension I have a whole staff of health advisors that can help me and so I reached out to a couple of them and they were able to find...and I'm assuming this, I'm not really sure where Mark read this from or where you got the information from, but you are correct. There was just this month, April, there was a publication online in Drug Testing and Analysis. It will eventually come out in their actual magazine but right now you can see this in this online Drug Testing and Analysis what they reported was 11 supposedly "all-natural" weight loss supplements contain BMPEA. And they are calling BMPEA a close chemical cousin to amphetamine and that makes sense.

I mean, amphetamines is really more of like a class of drugs. There are many compounds in nature that are also just made up in a lab that can mimic amphetamine and give you a nice little boost of energy and decrease appetite and all that kind of stuff, which is why you're finding this compound in some of these weight loss products. The products all list a Texas shrub also known as blackbrush on their labels.

I guess the researchers are connecting this. I guess the manufacturers are hiding the amphetamine within this blackbrush because the thought process was this Texas shrub, blackbrush, contains naturally BMPEA. So, if you put it in the product and somebody from the FDA or the government or researchers go in and test and they find BMPEA, this amphetamine cousin, you could blame it on the blackbrush. As a matter of fact, it's natural. That's why we put it in there. You get a little amphetamine like rush and your appetite comes down. But it's safe. It's natural. But here's the problem with all this and I agree with you, Mark.

I find this disgusting. Blackbrush has never been shown to contain any kind of amphetamine cousin of any kind. And so the manufacturers, whoever told them that, they were lied to. So, they added a little bit of this Texas shrub into their product and they purposefully adulterated those products with straightforward information right from a lab probably BMPEA (this amphetamine cousin) knowing that they could just blame it on the blackbrush. Of course, the product works great because it's amphetamine-like, so people have energy and they have no appetite. So, they lose weight and they feel good and they're concentrating better and they love it. They make millions of millions, if not billions of dollars.

So, yes, it is a little disgusting and as I said blackbrush in nature really contains no BMPEA or any amphetamine like cousin. So, they didn't even get it right if they were trying to fake people out, they didn't even do it right. So, you're right, Mark, that is disgusting and I fully believe and these companies that are producing these types of products need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Period. The FDA should be involved the FTC should be involved absolutely.

And it angers me because it upsets people like you, Mark, and you know have this bad taste in your mouth of the supplement industry. But, let me encourage you, Mark, that the supplement industry is a big industry. And there are companies, many of them, who have been in this industry for a long time and they take quality and purity and potency very, very seriously. And it's terrible that this kind of stuff happens. And I don't know the rest of the story at this point I'm just giving you what we know at this point. Where this goes I don't know, but, Mark, you're right. This is not good news for the industry. This hurts us, but your question, "Why should we believe anything coming out of the supplement industry?" Let's not let a couple bad apples ruin the whole batch.

I mean, that's a cliché but it's true. I stand by what I said. I work for one. I can tell you the company I work for. I wouldn't be the Senior Scientist if I didn't believe in the quality of the products that we produce and the science that we use the back them up. And I stand by that and of course we've been around for 30 some odd, 35 years. And we're not the only one. There are solid, awesome companies out there doing the right thing producing good products, so I don't know what else to say. Again, you can read that full report online Drug Testing and Analysis it was just published this past month.

Okay moving on next question this is from Ralph. Ralph says:

"Hi I love your show."

Thank you, Ralph, I appreciate that.

"I tried taking 500 mg of curcumin. After two weeks, I noticed lower back muscle and joint pain. It did help with anxiety, though. Many of the symptoms were similar to statins and niacin, which I also cannot take in significant doses."

He goes on to tell me he's 50; he works out really hard. He has a pretty tough work schedule. There's a strong family history of heart disease in his dad and his brother. Okay, so that's pretty much the gist of it.

So here we have Ralph trying to take curcumin, which I think you should. It's not one of my foundational products. That's the multivitamin, Omega-3 oils, CoQ10, and probiotic. But curcumin, if I was going to add another foundational product to my top four, curcumin would probably be right there. It would be in the running for that fifth coveted spot of Dr. Mike's foundational supplements. Don't give up on the curcumin, Ralph. You know, the first thing I notice here is you say 500 mg of curcumin and that tells me most likely you're not doing the right form of curcumin. No. no. I said that wrong. It's not form. You're not doing the best formulation of curcumin. The best trademarked formulation of curcumin is called BCM-95 and the appropriate dose of that in all the formulas is 400 mg.

So, the fact that you tell me you're doing 500 mg tells me you're doing another source of curcumin that I'm not familiar with and it's not the best one because it should say 400 mg. So, that's the first thing I would switch or make sure. Maybe you meant to write 400. I don't know but at the end of the day just make sure you're doing BCM-95 curcumin that's the curcumin that absorbs well. It's the curcumin that a vast majority of the research is done on and so that's the first thing and that's a clue that you tell me you're doing 500 mg.
It should be 400 mg. So make sure you're doing the right curcumin.

The other thing to remember to when you do, and this is for all my listeners, when you do a product and you don't respond well to it you get a headache you get a stomach issue, whatever side effects you feel from it, it's not always the active ingredient, in this case, curcumin. Sometimes, it's the inactive ingredients that might be in the product. So, I always encourage people not to give up on the active ingredient. Don't give up on curcumin yet, Ralph. Maybe you just need to find another one. Find one that has some different inactive ingredients what are called excipients. You may be reacting to one of those and not the curcumin. So, don't give up. Make sure you're doing BCM-95 Try a different product, different excipients and see if that helps.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.