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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 21 (2016) pp 139-142

NMR Characterization of Adulterants in Health Supplements

Matthew M. Miele, Shauna L. Anderson, Scott C. Blackburn, Sarah L. Bradley, D. Levi Craft, Conor J. Flynn, Tyler J, Fulton, and David Rovnyak*

Department of Chemistry, Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive, Lewisburg, PA 17837,
Received May 30, 2016. Accepted July 7, 2016.

Published: 28 July 2016

Abstract. The presence of unlabeled components, referred to as adulterants, in some health supplements is being increasingly reported, with NMR spectroscopy playing a vital role in detecting and identifying unlabeled components. Adulterants can mislead consumers and be potentially dangerous. The controversial regulatory environment and market-space for dietary health supplements provides a setting for conducting an undergraduate laboratory centered on NMR spectroscopy and for promoting an awareness of heath risks associated with adulterated supplements. A core experiment for a single laboratory period or a self-guided project is described for extracting aqueous components from dietary supplements and performing NMR analysis to identify components. This experiment demonstrates the detection of compounds such as caffeine and niacin, as well as active pharmaceutical compounds such as sildenafil and its analogues. In addition to other learning goals, students develop an appreciation for the role of NMR in protecting consumer safety.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; organic chemistry; NMR spectroscopy; dietary health supplements; caffeine; sildenafil; niacin

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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