Banned sports stimulant, higenamine, found in supplements

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Posted 10 September 2018

Higenamine is a stimulant that occurs naturally in a variety of traditional plant remedies. It has not been FDA-approved for any purpose, but is sold as an ingredient in supplement products.

In 2016, researchers made online purchases of 24 supplement products with higenamine as a labeled ingredient. Eleven of the products were marketed for weight loss, eleven were marketed as sports/energy supplements, and two were not labeled with a specific reason for use. Laboratory analyses revealed that the quantity of higenamine in the products ranged from trace amounts to 62 milligrams per serving with a margin of error of 6.0 milligrams.

Of the five products that listed a specific amount of higenamine on the label, none were accurate; the higenamine contents ranged from less than 0.01% to three times the quantity listed on the label. Clinical evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of higenamine is lacking.

Adverse effects such as difficulty in breathing, palpitations, and chest tightness have been reported. In January 2017, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned higenamine in sports competitions, but some higenamine-containing supplements remain on the market. 

Reference: Cohen P. and others. The stimulant higenamine in weight loss and sports supplements. Clinical Toxicology, Sept 6, 2018

Source: Consumer Health Digest #18-36, September 9, 2018

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