LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Can you find the perfect body in a bottle?
Conventional wisdom says no.
Still, there is always someone looking for a shortcut.
“Everyone is always trying to look for that magic pill. It is just trying to sell you the dream, but at such a harmful, dangerous cost,” says registered nutritionist and certified personal trainer Jennifer Trevino, who was “just speechless” with us her the label on Dark Energy Pre-Workout.
Pre-workout products are marketed to people who want to lose weight and gain muscle. The dietary supplements promise to increase focus, energy and athletic performance.
Dark Energy contains the ingredients DMAA and DMHA – stimulants that support the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it’s illegal for sale and to use as a dietary supplement.
DMHA, the less controversial of the two, is referred to as “Unsafe food additives” and products containing them are classified as “Adulterated” by the FDA.
DMAA was previously approved as a drug for nasal congestion, but that is no longer the case. In fact, the FDA no longer recognizes DMAA for medical use.
As Trevino explains, “It comes very close to these amphetamine methamphetamine drugs,” which the FDA deems particularly dangerous when combined with caffeine as in Dark Energy.
The FDA says it can increase blood pressure and lead to cardiovascular problems ranging from shortness of breath and tightness in the chest to heart attacks and death.
Dark energy is referred to as a “research product” that is “not intended for human consumption”.
“As consumers, we expect we can go anywhere and expect it to be at least semi-safe when it’s on the shelf, right? Because they wouldn’t sell it if it weren’t,” Trevino suspected.
But we found out that they would. And they did.
Our photographer went undercover into food stores all over the valley and asked about Dark Energy.
At Survival of the Fittest on West Sahara Ave. between Lindell Road and Decatur Boulevard we had no problem finding the product.
One store clerk calls it “The Crazy Stuff,” and goes on to explain, “You’re talking about DMAA – 100 milligrams of DMAA and 400 milligrams of caffeine. People really don’t know what’s in it. When you take it, it’s crazy. But DMAA what it does, it’s pretty much considered a drug. It’s what they took out of a lot of supplements. The government banned it and so on. I think it’s actually still banned. “
When we ask about the “Not For Human Consumption” label warning, he replies, “They’re still selling them, you know, people are crazy so they’re going to buy them anyway. I’m just doing my job as a storyteller.” You what it is, and if you want to give it a try, I suggest half a ball. If you want to make a full ball go ahead, it’s up to you. Personally, I wouldn’t take it. “
Other stores we checked, like GNC on Flamingo and Fort Apache Streets, said you won’t find it there.
A staff member said to our undercover photographer, “Oh, no, we don’t sell this. This contains DMHA and DMAA, which are illegal. These are banned substances. We don’t sell that.”
But he admits, “It’s very popular right now. It’s exploding on the internet.”
At Vegas Discount Nutrition on Grand Canyon Drive and Flamingo Road, a salesman said to our photographer, “Oh, yes, Dark Energy. Um … so we don’t have this.”
But he also offers another product that also contains the illegal DMAA.
“The only one we have with DMAA, the most powerful nootropic, is IrAte.”
The FDA has been warning of DMAA for a decade, including issuing warning letters and seizing products from facilities that do not voluntarily destroy them or agree to cease manufacturing.
As early as 2013, the FDA had received 86 reports of illnesses and deaths in connection with food supplements containing DMAA. The diseases reported include heart problems and nervous system or psychiatric disorders.
“People will come around trying to sell products in loopholes for as long as possible until they are pulled off the shelves,” said Trevino.
When we asked the Southern Nevada Health District about what we found, they left to see for themselves.
At Survival of the Fittest on West Sahara Avenue, inspectors found 11 containers of dark energy on the shelves. They issued an injunction, a fine, and ordered the store to destroy the product.
At the Charleston and Lamb Boulevards location, the person in charge informed the inspector that they “sold the Dark Energy pre-workout a few months ago but stopped because of three customer complaints ranging from consumer feelings of being overly nervous enough to upset your stomach. “
We returned to East Charleston Boulevard Survival of the Fittest after the Health District was there and asked again about Dark Energy.
A staff member said to our undercover photographer, “We can’t have it anymore. It has a substance that isn’t … It’s forbidden. The DMAA.”
But then she sells us another product called Sharp AMX that contains both DMAA and DMHA.
“I’ll still give you the receipt in case you feel sick or something.”
“So this won’t technically be illegal? Is that okay to buy and sell?” asked our photographer.
She replied, “It still is … but I’m pretty sure they could find the same thing if they researched those pre-workouts.”
Survival of the Strongest Owner Jimmy Arellano wouldn’t be on camera.
On the phone, he said he was unaware that Dark Energy said “Not For Human Consumption” on the label and his staff did not tell him. He admits that he did not do his own research and that he is relying on what dealers say in what he describes as volatile and constantly changing industry.
Arellano added that his family business would never knowingly sell anything illegal or dangerous, and they have cleared their store shelves of all prohibited products and pledged to be more diligent in the future.
Vegas Discount Nutrition also says it removed DMAA and DMHA containing products from their store shelves with the hidden camera after our visit.
Nutritionist Jenn Trevino says consumers should do their own research.
“Maybe find a doctor, a nutritionist – their type of expertise – not so much the store clerk because they are not experts. They are selling a product.”
Bottom line, she says our body doesn’t need the external stimulants in pre-workout products. The more you take, the more dependent you become.
“We want to keep our bodies as clean as possible. Let them work as they should work.”
According to the FDA, consumers who believe they have been harmed by using a product containing DMAA or DMHA should contact their doctor and the company whose name and contact information should appear on the product label.
It should also be reported directly to the FDA via the Safety Reporting Portal.