(CBS NEWS) - Health officials often warn people taking dietary supplements that they may not know everything that's in their shakes, because the products are not subjected to the rigorous testing required by the government for medications.
Now, a Harvard researcher is warning a dietary supplement he tested, called Craze, may contain a meth-like party drug.
"Alarmingly we have found a drug in a mainstream sports supplement that has never been studied in humans," says Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release. "The health risk of using supplements adulterated with a drug should not be underestimated."
Scientists looked into the Craze supplement, marketed by Driven Sports, Inc., after it was flagged in several failed drug tests. Cohen teamed up with the independent testing global health organization NSF International to analyze Craze's contents.What they found was a substance called N,alpha-diethylphenylethylamine (N,a-DEPEA), which the researchers called structurally similar to methamphetamine. Their analysis put the stimulant at a level less potent than methamphetamine, but more potent than ephedra, a stimulant banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 2003 after it was linked to heart attacks.
N,a-DEPEA was not listed on the product's label and may be harmful, according to the researchers. A similar compound however was found on the label: N,N-diethylphenylethylamine, which the company claimed was derived from extract of the dendrobium orchid. Driven Sports' claim that the compound was related to orchids could not be verified by the scientists' testing.
"It might be that manufacturers are not actually using the orchid at all, but rather using the name 'dendrobium' when actually placing pharmaceutical drugs into the supplement," Cohen told Consumer Reports. "It is very likely that some other supplements labeled as containing dendrobium contain this same new drug."
The researchers also found the meth-like compound in a weight loss supplement called Detonate, marketed by Gaspari Nutrition.
Both products are sold in vitamin and supplement retail and online shops.
The study was published Oct. 14 in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.
Cohen told CBSNews.com in an email he has not personally seen someone harmed from the products, but said he became interested when the new "party drug" was appearing worldwide in the urine tests of athletes claiming to only be taking natural supplements.