Hidden dangers of herbal supplements
If you think you know what’s in your herbal supplements, think again.
A new study finds that most herbal remedies contain fillers like soybeans, rice, wheat and other products not listed on the label. And some of these additions could put consumers at risk for allergic reactions, study leaders said.
Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, analyzed 44 products from a dozen different companies. The findings were published in the journal, BMC Medicine.
The study discovered that just two companies manufactured their products without using fillers. Of the other companies, nearly 60 percent of the supplements had ingredients not listed on the label.
The practice of not having all ingredients listed can lead to health problems for those who take them, study leaders said.
“Contamination and substitution in herbal products present considerable health risks for consumers,” said study author Steven Newmaster, in a news release.
“We found contamination in several products with plants that have known toxicity, side effects and/or negatively interact with other herbs, supplements and medications.”
The added substances could lead to chronic diarrhea, liver damage, oral ulcers, along with swelling and numbness in the mouth. Those with celiac disease seeking a gluten-free diet are at particular risk if the supplements contain wheat-based fillers, Newmaster said.
With nearly 30,000 herbal products being produced by more than 1,000 companies, in a $60 billion a year industry, the study’s authors say this is no small matter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of all Americans are taking dietary supplements—from daily multivitamins to herbal tablets.
Supplements don’t require the thorough inspection that a prescription medication does to be on the market. To entice buyers, labels on bottles claim all sorts of promises that cannot be supported with actual research, according to a recent UCLA-led study.
Dr. Tony Hampton, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, says it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking supplements to discuss their risks, effectiveness. Dr. Hampton suggests these five topics to discuss with your physician before taking supplements.
- The reason for taking the supplements
- How to take them
- Their potential risks
- Their effectiveness
- Cost or affordability
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