ESSNA: Education key to exposing sports nutrition "charlatans"

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©ESSNA
©ESSNA
There is no place in the legitimate sports nutrition world for banned substances like methylhexanamine (DMAA), sold by companies who prey on the public's perceived lack of knowledge.

In response to last week’s findings​ from a UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) survey, Dr Adam Carey, chairman of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), sought to reassure consumers they were working to “shut down these charlatans”.

It’s true that there is unfortunately a small minority of irresponsible companies out there that illegally sell unlicensed medicines containing banned substances such as DMAA masquerading as sports nutrition products,”​ said Dr Carey.

“But it’s crucial to note that substances like these have no place in the legitimate sports nutrition world.

“These companies prey on the public’s perceived lack of knowledge about the actual uses of sports nutrition which is why the industry is working hard to better educate the consumer as to how they should take sports nutrition products.”

UKAD survey findings

Nutraingredients reported on the results of UKAD’s survey, which revealed that 87% of active British adults who exercised and took sports supplements, did not seek any advice from a doctor, pharmacist, or dietician, before taking these supplements.

Dr Carey urged users to educate themselves on the products they were using, encouraging consumers to “do their research, use our campaign material, understand what they’re looking for, and to consult a nutritionist or health professional before using any products if they have any underlying health issues.”

But he also highlighted the progress made in regulating sports nutrition products, which he believed the rules that govern their marketing, labelling, and any claims they made about their benefits were some of the strictest in the world.

“Consumers can and should have confidence in the sports nutrition products they choose to use, all of which are classified as general foods rather than specialist products,”​ he added.

Further findings from UKAD’s survey revealed a fifth (20%) of those surveyed did not seek any advice at all before consuming these products.

When asked about the kinds of supplements taken, over a fifth of adults (22%) said that they had taken weight loss/fat burners. Pre-workout supplements were taken by 15% of those surveyed.

More than just adverse health effects

UKAD added that while there was a legitimate place for supplements in performance sports alongside a healthy lifestyle, the consequences for athletes of taking illegal products could be more than just physical.

Substances such as DMAA or dimethylbutylamine (DMAB) have been linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmia.

However, professional athletes could also face a ban from competing as both stimulants are on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list.

“At ESSNA, we are also working alongside bodies including UK Anti-Doping to identify and shut down these charlatans,”​ said Dr Carey.

“We run campaigns to both educate the public and ensure compliance with these strict regulations.

“Many people use sports nutrition products on the go for convenience, and while it’s important to maintain a balanced diet, these products can be helpful, particularly in the case of people who are very physically active.

“It’s essential that consumers have information on the products they’re using and, if they choose to use sports nutrition or sports supplements that they are purchasing from reputable manufacturers and retailers.”

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