The $26.7 billion supplemental medicine industry received a much-needed kick in the ass.
Results of a new investigation by Consumer Reports, released yesterday, warn consumers to avoid 12 supplement ingredients that have been linked to cancer, coma, heart problems, kidney damage, liver damage, and death.
Consumer Reports worked with the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of nutritional supplements, to develop this list.
Consumers might be attracted to dietary supplements because they’re “all natural” and don’t contain the synthetic chemicals found in prescription drugs. But they might be getting fooled. Hidden drugs and steroids have been detected in more than 170 supplements since 2008. Hazardous ingredients have been known to turn up in dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, bodybuilding, and sexual enhancement.
More than half of the adult population in the U.S. take supplements for a variety of reasons — to stay healthy, lose weight, gain an edge in sports, or to improve their performance in the bedroom. What many consumers don’t realize is that the supplement manufacturers routinely, and legally, sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective.
So do they even work? Of the more than 54,000 dietary supplement products in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, only about a third have some level of safety and effectiveness that is supported by scientific evidence, according to a review by NMCD experts. And close to 12 percent have been linked to safety concerns or problems with product quality.
Because of inadequate quality control and inspection, supplements contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or prescription drugs have been sold to unsuspecting consumers.
And FDA rules covering manufacturing quality don’t apply to the companies that supply herbs, vitamins, and other raw ingredients.
The following supplement ingredients are among those linked by clinical research or case reports to serious side effects. They should be avoided at all costs. (source: http://www.consumerreports.org/health/natural-health/dietary-supplements/supplement-side-effects/index.htm)
(also known as)
|PURPORTED USES||POSSIBLE DANGERS||COMMENTS|
(aconiti tuber, aconitum, radix aconiti)
|Inflammation, joint pain, wounds, gout.||Toxicity, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, respiratory-system paralysis, heart-rhythm disorders, death.||Unsafe. Aconite is the most common cause of severe herbal poisoning in Hong Kong.|
(aurantii fructus, Citrus aurantium, zhi shi)
|Weight loss, nasal congestion, allergies.||Fainting, heart-rhythm disorders, heart attack, stroke, death.||Possibly unsafe. Contains synephrine, which is similar to ephedrine, banned by the FDA in 2004. Risks might be higher when taken with herbs that contain caffeine.|
(creosote bush, Larrea divaricata, larreastat)
|Colds, weight loss, infections, inflammation, cancer, detoxification.||Liver damage, kidney problems.||Likely unsafe. The FDA advises people not to take chaparral.|
(ionic silver, native silver, Silver in suspending agent)
|Fungal and other infections, Lyme disease, rosacea, psoriasis, food poisoning, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV/AIDS.||Bluish skin, mucous membrane discoloration, neurological problems, kidney damage.||Likely unsafe. The FDA advised consumers about the risk of discoloration on Oct. 6, 2009.|
(coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort)
|Cough, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma.||Liver damage, cancer.||Likely unsafe.|
(blackwort, common comfrey, slippery root)
|Cough, heavy menstrual periods, chest pain, cancer.||Liver damage, cancer.||Likely unsafe. The FDA advised manufacturers to remove comfrey products from the market in July 2001.|
(heartleaf, Sida cordifolia, silky white mallow)
|Nasal congestion, allergies, asthma, weight loss, bronchitis.||Heart attack, heart arrhythmia, stroke, death.||Likely unsafe. Possible dangers linked with its ephedrine alkaloids banned by the FDA in 2004.|
(Ge, Ge-132, germanium-132)
|Pain, infections, glaucoma, liver problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer.||Kidney damage, death.||Likely unsafe. The FDA warned in 1993 that it was linked to serious adverse events.|
(celandine, chelidonii herba, Chelidonium majus)
|Upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, liver disorders, detoxification, cancer.||Liver damage.||Possibly unsafe.|
(awa, Piper methysticum, kava-kava)
|Anxiety (possibly effective).||Liver damage.||Possibly unsafe. The FDA issued a warning to consumers in March 2002. Banned in Germany, Canada, and Switzerland.|
(asthma weed, Lobelia inflata, pukeweed, vomit wort)
|Coughing, bronchitis, asthma, smoking cessation (possibly ineffective).||Toxicity; overdose can cause fast heartbeat, very low blood pressure, coma, possibly death.||Likely unsafe. The FDA warned in 1993 that it was linked to serious adverse events.|
(yohimbine, Corynanthe yohimbi, Corynanthe johimbi)
|Aphrodisiac, chest pain, diabetic complications, depression; erectile dysfunction (possibly effective).||Usual doses can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate; high doses can cause severe low blood pressure, heart problems, death.||Possibly unsafe for use without medical supervision because it contains a prescription drug, yohimbine. The FDA warned in 1993 that reports of serious adverse events were under investigation|
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