News, Vol. 6, No. 3: March 1987
Reprinted with permission
GROWING INTEREST IN DMG
William E. Jones, D.V.M., Ph.D.
You may have first heard about DMG as "vitamin B15."
The Russians called it pangamic acid, which is really
a chemical known as the ester of dimethylglycine. It was
reported as a "superdrug" when used by the Russian
track and field athletes in international competition
a decade ago. Actually, DMG is N, N-dimethylglycine, a
normal intermediate in choline metabolism, and a rather
An article in The Physician and Sportsmedicine1
described how the first test of DMG came about in athletics.
Dr. Thomas V. Pipes was quoted as saying, "I heard
a colleague tell a meeting of national track coaches that
B15 had no effect, and they snickered at him."
Pipes, of the Institute of Human Fitness in Escondido,
California, became one of the first to study the effects
of DMG on athletic performance. His first test was a one-week
double-blind comparison of 5 mg daily DMG with placebo
in 12 male college track athletes. His subjects were run
to exhaustion on a treadmill both before and after the
test week; each athlete trained normally during the test
Pipes really didn't expect any effects from DMG, and
so he just tossed the data to one side as it came in because
he was doing some other writing at the time. But, eventually,
he was astonished to find the results showed a 27.5 percent
increase in VO2 max and a 23.6 percent increase
in time to exhaustion for the DMG group.
Another exciting effect of DMG on the animal system is
an enhancement of immune mechanisms. One paper,3
in particular, reported a four-fold increase in antibody
response to pneumococcal vaccine in humans receiving DMG
orally as compared to controls. The first study of this
characteristic in horses was recently published.2
It seeks to show whether the substance enhances the immune
system as reported in the many references cited in that
paper. Admittedly limited in numbers and scope, the study
showed no apparent increase in immune response from DMG.
Because of the strong positive research in humans,3
further study is needed to prove what really happens in
According to information from Dr. Roger Kendall, Ph.D.,
a DMG researcher, there are at least 3 areas of current
study of DMG immune enhancement. Cellular-mediated and
humoral immunity increases have been shown in rabbits
on DMG. Also, DMG stimulation of interferon has been shown
in rabbits. Research is in progress to study DMG N-killer
cell potentiation. These studies are all being done at
An early study in horses4 with a DMG supplement,
called Spur-15 (no longer available), showed that DMG
is responsible for a lower blood lactic acid level following
training. The Standardbreds in this study were found to
be more aggressive, to have better appetites and attitudes
and to recover faster from racing and training than the
control group studied
Biochemically, DMG is involved in 3 basic reactions in
which it acts as a one-carbon donor. DMG makes it easier
for the body to produce phosphocreatine in muscles and
the brain, explaining the reduction of lactic acid after
exercise. This is a small energy storage reaction, but
extremely flexible and available.
It should be pointed out that the benefits, or lack thereof,
of DMG are yet to be clearly shown. A product with the
possible potential of DMG needs thorough conclusive testing.
The preliminary tests have a lot of people excited.
Currently DMG is being sold as a food by United States
Animal Nutrition, a division of FoodScience Corp., 20
New England Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Biochemically,
DMG functions in the body as an indirect methyl donor,
serves as a source of 2-carbon species, and serves as
a mineral transporter-- chelating agent. The nutritional
and physiological properties of DMG come from it being
an ergogenic (tending to increase work output) substance,
an anti-stress nutrient, a cell antioxidant, and an immune
Dr. Jerzy W. Meduski, of the Nutritional Research Laboratory,
at the University of Southern California's School of
Medicine in Los Angeles, has said that experimental
data in both medicine and comparative nutritional sciences
led many years ago to introduction of the concept of
food factors called today biologically active non-fuel
nutrients. Originally, nutritional sciences distinguished
only one group of these compounds: so called essential
nutrients. In this group we have vitamins, essential
amino acids, essential fatty acids, and essential trace
elements. The concept of "essentiality"
developed around the old concept of health as absence
The vitamins are "essential", according to
Meduski, because their absence in the diet causes the
appearance of pathological symptoms and their administration
removes these symptoms. But, Meduski explains that with
the introduction by the World Health Organization of a
new, positive concept of health: as "the complete
physical, mental and social well-being of an individual
and not merely the absence of disease" the physicians
began to look beyond the disappearance of pathological
symptoms, farther than the limited field of essential
nutrients. Such considerations and the accumulation of
laboratory data in experimental medicine and in nutritional
sciences led to the introduction of a second group of
biologically active non-fuel nutrients-- metabolic enhancers.
The absence of these substances in the diet does not produce
deficiency symptoms, but when present in a diet, they
improve the performance of the animal.
While the FDA will not allow the merchant of DMG to
advertise clinical applications for DMG, there are some
effects that have been suggested by research, some of
which continue to be studied. There may be some benefits
in cardiovascular dysfunction, blood-sugar metabolism,
and immune dysfunction. Some of these benefits, while
traditionally described as "clinical," can be
traced to DMG's property of metabolic enhancement. In
an editorial in the February (1987) issue of Let's
Live, Dr. Richard A Passwater wrote, "DMG has long
been used by athletes to improve overall performance
and endurance, to enhance oxygen utilization, and to
improve recovery after strenuous exercise. Nutritionally
oriented physicians have been using DMG to deal with
fatigue, to enhance blood sugar metabolism, to improve
liver function, and to strengthen the cardiovascular
Meduski claims that DMG is perfectly safe when used as
a dietary supplement in conventional amounts. In the horse,
this translates to about 1.6 mg/kg of body weight. The
average 1200 pound horse would require 750 mg per day.
This is only about one-seventh of a teaspoonful, an amount
easily lost or mis-measured, therefore, an inert carrier
is added to the commercial product, Vetri-Cine, to make
the daily dose equivalent to 10.5 grams. This can be dispensed
with a 37 cc serving cup, which comes with the product.
Most horsemen double or triple the dose a few days before
a race or other heavy activity, without seeing any side
The U.S. producer of DMG is Food Science Laboratories,
headed by Dom Orlandi. He says, "The FDA is confusing
me with my father, Guido Orlandi, the chairman of the
Laetrile Company." Possibly for this reason the FDA
is acting quite arbitrary and has classified DMG as a
food additive without safety studies.
"We've never said that DMG is a vitamin or a drug,"
Dom Orlandi is quoted as saying. He is satisfied to call
it a "non-fuel nutrient," which is supposed
to be out of FDA's jurisdiction. Neither Orlandi nor his
Food Science Laboratory will make claims for DMG. That
can be left up to the scientists. But Orlandi wants to
get into court against the FDA to make them prove their
Meanwhile Food Science Laboratories continues to sell
DMG to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Yankees,
the Dallas Cowboys, and a whole lot of race horse owners.
Chemical formula for N,N-Dimethylglycine
1. Barnes, Lan. B15: the politics of
ergogenicity. The Phys. and Sportsmed. 7(11),
2 Beech, Jill, et al. The effect of DMG on antibody response
to influenza vaccination in horses. JEVS 7(2),
3. Graber CD, et al. Immunomodulating properties of DMG
in humans. J Infec Dis 143:101-105, 1981.
4. Levine SB. et al. Effect of a nutritional Supplement
containing N,N-dimethylglycine on the racing standardbred.
Eq Prac 4:(3), 1982.