DMAE – full name 2-dimethylaminoethanol – is not just a life extender and a smart drug that can induce lucid dreams; it’s also a slimming supplement. If we can believe websites and gurus, at least. The claim is not entirely without scientific foundation, we discovered after a little detective work, although the arguments used are a little thin.
DMAE – structural formula shown above – resembles choline. Choline is found in our food, but our bodies manufacture it too. When the enzyme choline acetyltransferase attaches an acetyl group to choline, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is created. Acetylcholine is needed for learning processes and for regulating muscles.
The dominant theory is that DMAE is an effective precursor of acetylcholine. If a methyl group is absent, the theory goes, DMA can get to places in the body that choline can’t or finds difficult to get to. So DMAE supplementation can boost the synthesis of acetylcholine.
And that, according to the TrulyHuge.com website is exactly how DMAE causes weight loss. “DMAE is effective for fat burning, because of its activity as a precursor to acetylcholine”, according to TrulyHuge. [trulyhuge.com] “DMAE causes a thermogenic effect in the body, meaning it helps to increase metabolism. This is important for people desiring to lose weight, because an increased metabolism causes more rapid calorie burn. The majority of people who take DMAE also experience increased energy, which helps with weight loss.”
And indeed, if you look for them, you’ll find DMAE users who confirm this. On Erowid for example, Alain tells how he took 200 mg DMAE for two months consecutively and lost as much as 9 kg. [erowid.org] In the same period Alain’s memory function improved, but he also developed sleep problems.
A well known supporter of DMAE in supplement circles is the American anti-aging dermatologist Nicholas Perricone. [perriconemd.com] In his Daily Perricone blog entry of February 7 2012 on the 10 best supplements, Perricone lists the body enhancing effects of DMAE. [dailyperricone.com]
“DMAE has membrane stabilizing effects and can also help reduce body fat, most likely from its activity as a precursor to acetylcholine as well as its anti-inflammatory activity”, writes Perricone. “Taking DMAE as a supplement will not only improve your cognitive function, it will help increase skin firmness and muscle tone.”
The scientific source of all this wisdom is an article published by a group of American pharmacologists in 1957 in Science. [Science. 1957 Sep 27;126(3274):610-1.] “Stimulant effect of 2-dimethylaminoethanol; possible precursor of brain acetylcholine” is the title.
The article describes experiments on people with schizophrenia. In the 1950s and 60s psychiatrists were optimistic that schizophrenia could be treated by increasing the amount of acetylcholine in the brain.
According to the description above, the patients lost more than 2 kg over the 4-week period during which they took 250 mg DMAE daily.
If 10 mg daily of DMAE causes a “mild and pleasant degree of central nervous stimulation”, then the patients in the study here, who were given 25 times as much, probably felt uncomfortably worked up and hyper. That probably meant that they moved more and slept less than usual. That’s probably why they lost weight. Wanna bet?
The notion that DMAE supplementation or other substances believed to raise acetylcholine levels can help people with psychoses or mania is out-dated by the way. The stimulatory effect of these substances can actually cause a psychosis or make problems worse, psychiatrists have learnt. Use of DMAE in people with anxiety disorders or epilepsy is not a good idea, according to the current thinking.