The United States has experienced quite an increase in the intake of dietary supplements since the past few years. There are a lot of advertisements being shown to the public about how consuming dietary supplements can help them live better. Due to them being readily available, the consumption is expected to increase further in the coming years. However, a new investigation might just make people think twice before they decide to pop a pill in their mouth.
The investigation has been conducted by Consumer Reports and it shows that some ingredients found in a lot of famous supplements can carry a high risk regarding possible health related side effects such as allergic reactions, pain, and heart palpitations. It is important to note that supplements that include pills for losing weight, probiotics, and vitamins, are not given FDA approval to prove that they are effective and safe. The Deputy content editor at Consumer Reports, Lisa Gill, said that a lot of people might consider such supplements as safe due to them being not prescription.
Consumer Reports worked with independent dietary experts and doctors in order to undergo the current investigation. They ended up knowing about a total of 15 ingredients that consumers should definitely avoid. Kava and red yeast rice are included in these ingredients. Kava is a substance that claims to lower the levels of anxiety, while red yeast rice claims to reduce the cholesterol levels in a person.
“They are known to have very specific harms. In some cases they can cause seizures or they can cause liver or kidney damage, there have been deaths associated with each of these”, said Gill about the dangerous ingredients. “It’s what you don’t know – I think that’s the thing that we’re most concerned about. Just because it’s not prescription, you say, ‘oh, it’s safe,’ but that’s not necessarily true.”
Dr. Pieter Cohen (Harvard Medical School) also supported the current findings and said that people should not trust anything that is being sold as a supplement.
Public awareness needs to be improved regarding the true state of these supplements. A survey conducted by Consumer Reports brought forward the results that 50% of Americans believed that manufacturers of such supplements test the effectiveness of their products. A total of 38% people thought that these supplements are tested by FDA for their safety.
People need to understand that the regulations regarding the production of dietary supplements are so weak that they can be contaminated, contain prescription or illegal drugs, and cause dangerous side effects. Manufacturers don’t even have to prove the safety of the drugs or make sure that the product contains all of the ingredients, being advertised, on the label.
“Supplements have labels that don’t necessarily tell you what they are good for, how they are going to work, whether they will work,” said Gill. “You can’t trust that they’re going to work or that they will be safe just by looking at the label.”
Another unfortunate discovery that Consumer Reports made was the fact that approximately 23,000 people are taken to emergency rooms per year after taking supplements. The Chief Medical Advisor of Consumer Reports, Dr. Marvin Lipman, said that people who are worried about the safety of a supplement should look for the U.S. Pharmacopeia or USP label. This label means that the contents on the label have been verified by a company.
While these reports are a bit worrying, dietary supplements are said to be completely safe by the Council for Responsible Nutrition that represents the supplement industry. It has been reported that more than 150 million Americans consume dietary supplements annually.