Panel: Dietary Supplement Ingredients Can Make You Sick


Ingredients found in dietary supplements can be harmful to your health, according to a new report.

An expert panel of independent doctors and dietary supplement researchers worked with Consumer Reports to identify dietary supplement ingredients that could be potentially harmful to health.

The report suggests people should be cautious when taking dietary supplements containing aconite, caffeine powder, chaparral, coltsfoot, comfrey, gerrymander, greater celandine, green tea extract powder, kava, lobelia, methylsynephrine, pennyroyal oil, red yeast rice, usnic acid or yohimbe.

The risks involved in taking products with these ingredients include organ damage, seizures, liver damage, kidney problems, hepatitis, cancer, cardiac arrest and possible death. The level of severity depends on factors such as pre-existing medical conditions, the quality of the ingredient, and the length of time a person is exposed to the substance.

Liver damage and the possibility of death were found to be a risk with many of the ingredients.

The ingredients may also interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and warfarin.

Supplements are categorized as foods or nutrients, and therefore are not subject to the standards and inspection of the Food and Drug Administration.

“This categorization of supplements as food nutrients leaves every person who makes a purchase vulnerable to possible contamination or adulteration of these products,” Dr. Jose Luis Mosquera wrote in a Consumer Reports Health article. “Only one in four supplement products is voluntarily submitted for inspection by producers to the USP (US Pharmacopeia), leaving the majority without reliable verification of dose, purity, and standardization.”

The experts who participated in the Consumer Reports panel all agreed that none of the supplement ingredients provide sufficient health benefits to justify their potential risks.

A recent report released by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that consumers spent $12.8 billion in 2012 on natural products, which includes dietary supplements.

Sources: Consumer Reports, Consumer Reports HealthNational Center for Complementary and Integrative Health / Photo credit: Flickr

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