Another day, another reminder that you can’t always trust what’s on the side of a pill bottle, and just because it says “all natural” doesn’t make it the same thing as a bran muffin. This time it’s weight-loss supplements, which could very well contain something a lot like amphetamines.

BuzzFeed reports on a new study of several weight-loss supplements (published in Drug Testing and Analysis), which found several offenders:

The [eleven] products all list Acacia rigidula, a Texas shrub also known as blackbrush, on their labels. They’re sold widely online and in stores. In response to the study, one of the manufacturers, Vitacost, has stopped selling the products.

The new findings align with a 2013 study carried out by scientists from the FDA showing that many products listing Acacia rigidula on their labels also contain BMPEA. That study also found that real Acacia rigidula leaves, twigs, and bark do not contain any trace of BMPEA.

Now, it’s not clear what BMPEA actually does to you, and no public FDA warning resulted from that 2013 investigation. Maybe it’s no big! But the new study’s authors think the agency should be kicking up a bigger fuss, considering, hey, we don’t know what BMPEA does to you and that’s a little worrisome. Said Pieter Cohen of the Cambridge Health Alliance: “The fact that they haven’t done anything two years after their own research team sorted this out is completely inexplicable.”

Anyway, this is your regular reminder that supplements are not FDA approved before hitting the market. The Los Angeles Times puts this particular finding in perspective:

The study is another round in a long-running battle between supplement makers, regulators, and researchers over the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements, which, under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, are not subject to FDA testing before being brought to market.

With the FDA empowered to act only after problems are discovered, the result has been a cat-and-mouse game in which researchers discover problems, regulators act, and supplement makers adjust their products and practices, only to start the process all over again.

Caveat emptor.

Photo via Shutterstock/Thirteen.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.