Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler August 4, 2016

Dietary supplements are taken by millions of Americans to gain more nutrients than they’d get from a normal diet, to lose weight or gain muscles, or to treat a variety of ailments. Yet a new study underscores that dietary supplements can pose serious health risks.

Dangerous Dietary Supplements

The study, reported recently by CBS News and other media, revealed a “Dirty Dozen” of such dangerous dietary supplements. They include:

  • Aconite, taken for wounds, inflammation, gout and joint pain. It also can cause vomiting, nausea, heart arrhythmia and low blood pressure, as well as possibly respiratory system paralysis and death.
  • Bitter Orange, taken for allergies, weight loss and nasal congestion. It also has been linked to  heart trouble, stroke, fainting and death. Bitter Orange includes synephrine, a compound much like ephedrine, which the Food and Drug Administration banned in 2004.
  • Chaparral, taken for weight loss, colds, infections, cancer, inflammation and detoxification. It also can lead to kidney and liver problems, and the FDA advises Americans not to take it.
  • Colloidal Silver, taken for food poisoning, infections, facial redness (rosacea), psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease and HIV/AIDS. It also can give skin a bluish hue and can cause kidney damage and neurological problems.
  • Coltsfoot, taken for sore throats, coughs, asthma, bronchitis and laryngitis. It also has been connected to cancer and liver damage.
  • Comfrey, taken for heavy menstrual periods, cancer, coughs and chest pains. It also has been connected to cancer and liver damage.
  • Country Mallow, taken for asthma, allergies, nasal congestion, weight loss and bronchitis. It also can cause heart attacks, heart rhythm problems and strokes, perhaps even leading to death.
  • Germanium, a plant taken for infections, pain, glaucoma, arthritis, liver difficulties,  osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS. It also can cause kidney damage and perhaps even death.
  • Greater Celandine, taken for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), upset stomach, liver problems, cancer and detoxification. It also can cause liver damage.
  • Kava, taken for treatment of anxiety. It also can cause damage to the liver. Kava already is banned in Switzerland, Canada and Germany — but not in the United States.
  • Lobelia, taken for asthma, bronchitis, coughs and to help people stop smoking. It also can cause accelerated heartbeat, coma, low blood pressure and death.
  • Yohimbe, taken for chest pain, erectile dysfunction, depression, complications of diabetes and as an aphrodisiac. It also has been associated with heart problems, including accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, severely low blood pressure and death.

Many More Dietary Supplements

These are just a few of the over 50,000 dietary supplements readily available to Americans, including many others which could be dangerous, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Yet up to an estimated 55 per cent of Americans take dietary supplements, whose only value may be in certain circumstances when a person fails to consume an adequate diet.

Protect Yourself

It’s believed that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fails to protect Americans adequately from the barrage of dietary supplements flooding the over-the-counter market. Reportedly, some members of the FDA are connected personally to the $33 billion per year dietary supplement industry.

Beyond such conflicts of interests on the FDA’s part, keep in mind that laws governing dietary supplements are loose. Federal law only specifies that dietary supplements, with some exceptions, can contain solely ingredients which are part of the food supply or which already were on the market prior to 1994.

With so little federal oversight or FDA restrictions, that leaves it to consumers to protect themselves — which often doesn’t occur. Reportedly, an 18-year-old died after taking an overdose of a caffeine powder supplement that he purchased online.

Before taking any dietary supplement, investigate thoroughly. Use your computer. Ask questions. And never take any such supplement unless the need far outweighs any potential risks.

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