Consumer Reports’ List Of Unsafe Diet Supplements

Photo: Ragesoss (CC)

Photo: Ragesoss (CC)

Medical News Today summarizes a new report on the dangers of dietary supplements:

More than half of adult Americans take dietary supplements in the belief they will keep them healthy, help them lose weight, or increase vitality and drive, but according to Consumer Reports, they may not realize there is no obligation for manufacturers to show they are safe and effective, and in their latest report they reveal 12 ingredients that consumers should avoid because they have been linked to health risks, including cardiovascular, liver, and kidney problems…

The consumer magazine’s report identifies 12 supplements, which they refer to as the “dirty dozen”, that are readily available in stores and online, but that they think consumers should avoid because of health risks to heart, liver and kidneys. The following list summarizes their information:

  • Aconite (other names include aconiti tuber, aconitum, radix aconiti), used for joint pain, inflammation, gout, wounds, is described as “unsafe” and has been linked to low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, problems with heart rhythm, respiratory paralysis and death.
  • Bitter orange (aurantii fructus, Citrus aurantium, zhi shi), taken for weight loss, allergies, nasal congestion, is described as “possibly unsafe” and has been linked with heart problems, stroke and death. Caffeine taken at same time can heighten risks.
  • Chaparral (creosote bush, Larrea divaricata, larreastat), used for infections, detoxification, colds, weight loss, inflammation, cancer, is described as “likely unsafe”, and has been linked to liver damage and kidney problems…

[continues at Medical News Today]

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  • SpiritualizedBiped

    This is yet another example of the one-sided preferential treatment given to special interest groups (read: Big Pharma). I suppose if there were mass fortunes to be made from these natural ingredients, television advertising could paint a pretty picture and place a warning in small print and Middle America wouldn't care. But now, as a TCM herbalist, I will have patients telling me that they won't take bitter orange because they read that it causes stroke. (For the record, those indications are not typical indications in a TCM clinic).

    I seriously wonder what dosages were used for these herbs to determine they were “likely unsafe.” I am slightly offended of the inclusion of the Chinese names of the herbs without qualification. Many of these herbs are highly effective medicines when administered properly and with care. TCM herbalists are well aware of the problems with herbs coming from China and this article is, in fact, several years late in reporting the news and tells nothing of the efforts that many companies make to ensure delivery of untainted products.

    I am not opposed to regulation of herbal medicine, and I do not condone all marketing practices of “supplements.” Aconite, for instance, in it's raw form is definitely toxic, but it is relatively safe in the prepared forms that are prescribed in Chinese Medicine (relative, say, to Accutane or a score of other FDA-approved pharmaceuticals). And my brief search online show aconite primarily being sold in homeopathic form, hardly enough of a does to be considered toxic.

    The message clearly seems to state “stay away from natural health remedies,” implying that it is safe to trust the pharmaceuticals that FDA approves (never mind their track record).

    • tonyviner

      Is Biped the past tense of bipe?

    • Haystack

      Consumer Reports is a non-profit. They do not even accept advertising. Their credibility depends on the fact that they cannot be influenced by commercial interests, “big pharma” or otherwise.

      Many vitamins and supplements are, in fact, sold by the pharmaceutical companies themselves under subsidiaries with names like “Nature's Bounty,” “Puritan's Pride,” and so on. “Big pharma” doesn't see supplements as a threat, they see them as easy money–drugs they can market to consumers without spending money on research.

      Under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, supplements do not have to undergo studies for either safety or efficacy, as pharmaceuticals do. They instead rely upon anecdotal evidence and clever marketing in place of empirical research.

      The FDA process identifies most of the risks involved in taking a given drug and requires that these be disclosed so that consumers can make an educated choice. When people watch those commercials with the notoriously long disclaimers, they get cynical. When that same company offers them a different drug they market as a “supplement,” one which has not undergone any safety testing, and has not been demonstrated to treat any particular illness, people naively accept it on the premise that because it's “natural” or “traditional” they can trust that it's safe and/or effective.

      I applaud Consumer Reports for calling attention to the fact that “natural remedies” can be every bit as dangerous as artificial compounds.

  • Haystack

    Consumer Reports is a non-profit. They do not even accept advertising. Their credibility depends on the fact that they cannot be influenced by commercial interests, “big pharma” or otherwise.

    Many vitamins and supplements are, in fact, sold by the pharmaceutical companies themselves under subsidiaries with names like “Nature’s Bounty,” “Puritan’s Pride,” and so on. “Big pharma” doesn’t see supplements as a threat, they see them as easy money–drugs they can market to consumers without spending money on research.

    Under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, supplements do not have to undergo studies for either safety or efficacy, as pharmaceuticals do. They instead rely upon anecdotal evidence and clever marketing in place of empirical research.

    The FDA process identifies most of the risks involved in taking a given drug and requires that these be disclosed so that consumers can make an educated choice. When people watch those commercials with the notoriously long disclaimers, they get cynical. When that same company offers them a different drug they market as a “supplement,” one which has not undergone any safety testing, and has not been demonstrated to treat any particular illness, people naively accept it on the premise that because it’s “natural” or “traditional” they can trust that it’s safe and/or effective.

    I applaud Consumer Reports for calling attention to the fact that “natural remedies” can be every bit as dangerous as artificial compounds.

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