Most of us know that pharmaceutical drugs often carry with them a nasty list of side effects: they come with warning labels and extensive information sheets detailing the unpleasantries that may accompany their use.
What is less known is that many supplements, marketed as “natural,” may also come with side effects and risks.
However, due to a lack of regulation, these are not required to be detailed on a label, and what’s worse is that many supplements are not what they claim to be.
The American College of Gastroenterology recently revised their guidelines concerning drug-induced liver injury (DILI), a rare reaction to certain drugs that can culminate in liver failure and death. Along with prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements were implicated in the rise of this condition.
Dr. Herbert Bonkovsky, who co-authored the new guidelines: “A lot of consumers have a preconceived notion that if it’s a natural product, it must be safe. But that is not necessarily the case.
Most of these products are not well-regulated and have very little oversight. Traces of heavy metals and prescription drugs have even been found in some herbal and dietary supplements.”
Because the FDA does not test supplements for content and quality unless they are reported for adverse side effects, many imposter products slip through the cracks. As we explored in detail in an earlier article, when 60 brands of multivitamins were tested by ConsumerLab.com in 2009, 12 were found to be mislabeled, nutrient deficient, or even contaminated with lead. In 2003, a workout supplement was found to contain an unlisted, untested ingredient very similar to methamphetamine.
We have also explored how the lack of quality control in the supplement industry has led to GMO ingredients, various forms of sugar, artificial colorings, and other potentially harmful chemicals, even lead, being discovered in multivitamins and other supplements.
The American College of Gastroenterology implicates green tea extract supplements as most commonly being linked to DILI. The ironic thing is, taking these supplements could be avoided by simply drinking organic green tea.
Many of the supplements people take contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can easily be gained from eating real, whole, nutritious foods. Additionally, the body is much more easily able to absorb them from real food as opposed to a processed, synthetic form.
Instead of looking to gain these nutrients in pill form, we could eat the foods that they come from, and know we are getting the health benefits we are promised, without the risk of contaminants, additives or false marketing.
That being said, some people who are deficient in certain nutrients that are difficult to gain from food may be advised by a medical professional to take a supplement.
In this case, it is important to do your homework and find a source you trust. Dr. Richard Firshein, author of The Nutraceutical Revolution, states, “companies should be able to provide documentation from independent laboratories. If they can’t or won’t… then I would choose another supplement.”
Keep in mind that a supplement in as close to a whole food form as possible is easiest for the body to absorb, compared to highly processed alternatives. Whenever possible though, go to the food itself as your absolute best source of nutrition.
-The Alternative Daily