Blog Superbowl 020317


Recently the National Football League (NFL) banned GNC from airing their $5 million ad during the superbowl.


Oh, wait. We’re talking football on this blog post.

This would have been GNC’s first time on the biggest advertising stage of the year. Why was the commercial banned from the Super Bowl?

ANSWER: GNC sells numerous products that contain two ingredients banned from the  NFL: synephrine and DHEA. Both of these, however, are legal by the FDA.

What is DHEA?

Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a steroid made in the ovaries and adrenal glands (spongy, triangular structure that sits on top of your kidneys). It’s a precursor to other steroid hormones you are familiar with, testosterone and estrogen.  

Despite its being banned for professional sports in the United States, there is no evidence that the steroid has any performance-enhancing effects. Still, professional players have been penalized for taking the substance. like the big league basketball player OJ Mayo in 2011 and more recently the MMA fighter Fabio Maldonado.

How about Synephrine?

Synephrine is an alkaloid derived from Citrus aurantium (bitter orange) and a stimulant that suppresses appetite and induces thermogenesis to help with weight loss. (You can assume that any substance ending with “–ine” is a stimulant. Some may sound familiar: ephedrine, cocaine, caffeine. Get it?)

A small, placebo-controlled study recently showed that Synephrine (100mg) improved one’s ability to use oxygen during resistance exercise (VO2 max) and better  break down fat for energy at rest with and without caffeine.

Comparing it to other alkaloids like cocaine or even excess consumption of caffeine, you’d think synephrine would cause high blood pressure or increase heart rate at 10 to 50 mg a day. However, this is not the case, as a study from 2012 shows. Using Synephrine showed no adverse effects: no increased heart rate, no high blood pressure, no changes in blood chemistry, blood cell counts, or urine.

My Take on DHEA, Synephrine and the Ban of GNC for the Superbowl

No chemical is good or bad. The value depends on how you use the chemical and the amount (dose) used. That said, DHEA and synephrine are good and generally safe substances to take, but only under the care of an expert.

Just because these are over-the-counter dietary supplements that does not mean they are always safe, or, furthermore, that any dose will have a benefit.

As a side note, DHEA has been shown to help older adults with suboptimal DHEA levels. After all, DHEA levels decrease with age.

In men over 65 years old, DHEA supplementation may reduce LDL cholesterol and increase testosterone levels. (Again, it might not work for everyone, so please consult a health professional to figure out the right dosage of DHEA and other nutrients.) Lastly, DHEA may protect against Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.

The standard dosage is roughly 280 – 640 mcg/dl, and the optimal range may be 400 to 500 mcg/dl based on clinical experience.

Synephrine may have modest weight-loss benefits and promote fat-loss, which is probably why GNC includes it in their formulations. Here again, be supervised by a physician before taking these or any legal stimulant for weight loss.

As for GNC, I think they will find a creative way to make sure you watch their commercial. There’s no way they will let $5 million go to waste. Heck, they are getting great publicity already. Here. I’ll help.

The Bottom Line

The commercial was banned because GNC sells many products that contain ingredients banned by the NFL. Although these ingredients are banned, research shows they don’t have significant performance-enhancing effects.

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