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Winter 2014

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

Bitter Pills

Ingredients for Change

How Daniel Armstrong helped make the government’s case against a now-banned ingredient in popular dietary supplements 

Zhiyong Yang

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received dozens of reports about the dietary supplement ingredient DMAA being linked to “adverse events” such as heart problems and psychiatric disorders, it looked to the world of science for answers. Professor Daniel Armstrong responded.

The renowned chemist and Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry investigated whether the DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) used in numerous supplements came from natural or synthetic sources. Dr. Armstrong's research team used chromatography tools he invented to conduct complicated analyses of the substance’s chemical makeup. They found that it is unlikely the DMAA in supplements comes from the geranium plant or its extracted oil, as companies have sometimes claimed.

His findings were featured in The Wall Street Journal, Prevention magazine, and on several prominent websites, bringing national attention to the suspect ingredient. Since DMAA didn’t qualify as a “dietary ingredient,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had the authority to ban it in supplements.

Many companies voluntarily stopped using DMAA, and in April 2013, the FDA sent an enforcement letter—which quoted the work of Armstrong and others—to holdouts who were still defending the now-controversial substance. The companies have since complied.

“Clearly our paper had a significant influence and I don’t think that the manufacturers had any alternative but to remove the DMAA at that point,” says Armstrong. “Once the FDA was convinced that the DMAA in these supplements was synthetic and not from added geranium plants or extracts, the game was over.”

More articles from this issue

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