Dietary supplements include a variety of substances from multivitamins to complex formulations that purport to help you lose weight or build muscle. Similar to vitamins, however, the effectiveness of dietary supplements is often controversial. A recent surge in liver damage has also called the safety of nutritional supplements into question. One expert warned that products purported to aid in weight loss, energy, and muscle gain could have severe side effects.
Susan Farrell, editor at Harvard Health, warned that some supplements can send you to the emergency room.
Farrell looked at a study that gathered data from 63 different hospitals to determine which dietary supplements pose the greatest risk to our health.
Commenting on the study, Farrell said, “The researchers looked at emergency room surveillance data to estimate the annual number of visits related to side effects of dietary supplements.
“The authors defined ‘dietary supplements’ as herbal or supplementary products as well as vitamins or amino acid micronutrients.”
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Dietary supplements for weight loss
While most supplements remain harmless, some of the popular ingredients in weight loss products have been banned by the FDA due to harmful side effects, including liver damage, high blood pressure, and increased heart rate.
Farrell said, “Patients who went to the emergency room for symptoms related to dietary supplements averaged 32 years old, and women made up more than half of all visits.
“A little more than 10 percent of these visits resulted in hospitalization, especially for adults over 65 years of age.”
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“Weight loss products made up a quarter of all emergency rooms with a single product and were disproportionately affected by women.
The number of patients hospitalized with injuries caused by supplements purported to promote muscle growth is also increasing, with some people suffering so badly that a liver transplant is required.
Doctor Farrell noted, “According to CDR Mark S. Miller, a Food and Drug Administration regulator, bodybuilding products that contain steroids or steroid-like substances are associated with potentially serious heart risks, including liver damage.
“Some liver injuries can be life threatening.”
Energy-increasing dietary supplements
Many pharmacies and health food stores across the UK sell a variety of herbs and nutritional supplements that claim to boost energy. However, such supplements can also have severe side effects.
Doctor Farrell added, “Energy-enhancing products made up an additional 10 percent of visits.
“The (FDA) suggests that you consult a doctor before using any dietary supplement. Many dietary supplements contain ingredients with potent biological effects and such products may not be safe for all people. “
Because the FDA does not test all supplements, there is no guarantee that every ingredient in every supplement is safe. So health authorities suggest that you consult a doctor about the safety of any product before consuming it.
As the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine notes, the liver is responsible for breaking down drugs and producing bile, which removes waste and is vital for digestion. Medications and supplements can damage the liver while it does its job.
According to Everyday Health, here are some tips to keep the liver healthy:
- Always ask your doctor about any herbal product before taking it
- Examine the ingredient list of any herbal remedy before trying it out
- Limit the number of herbal products you consume
- You can find background information on remedies on the LiverTox website.
Chronic use or abuse of drugs like steroids and inhalants has been known to cause permanent damage to the liver.
In addition, use alcohol and certain drugs taken together can increase the risk of liver damage.