A common "natural" stimulant in sports drinks is not derived from plants, as the manufacturers claim, but is actually a synthetic product, a new study reported.

The stimulant called DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) is present in many supplement drinks and is labeled as derived from geranium plants. However, new research says that the DMAA used in supplements isn't derived from the plants.

"The FDA should regulate and/or ban products in which significant amounts of synthetic pharmacological compounds are added. Also, this information should be clearly labeled – including their effects and possible side effects – so that consumers can make an informed choice," said Daniel W. Armstrong, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Arlington and lead author of the study, according to a news release.

DMAA is currently used in over 200 sports supplements in U.S. Sales of these drinks last year exceeded $7 billion.

In the present study, researchers compared isomeric ratios of synthetic and natural DMAA. Isomeric ratios are distinct for each and so can be used to differentiate between the two substances.

Researchers found that DMAA has 4 different compounds. The unique isomeric ratio found in synthetic DMAA was same as that found in all commercially available supplement drinks. When they analyzed geranium extracts from various countries, they found that none of the drinks' DMAA matched with the geranium extracts. Therefore, the DMAA in drinks was synthetic and not plant-based product.

DMAA – side effects

DMAA comes with various side effects "supplements containing DMAA have been implicated as potentially contributing agents in multiple serious adverse events, including panic attacks, seizures, stress-induced cardiomyopathy," said Pieter A. Cohen, MD in an article published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

In April this year, FDA has issued warning letters to 10 manufacturers asking them about the origins of DMAA in their products. Last year, the U.S military removed all DMAA-supplements from all military exchanges, the article said.

The study is published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.