Vitamins and supplements have long been tied to health benefits and disease prevention, but a new study from Consumer Reports would suggests otherwise, saying there’s a dark side to natural supplements we may not realize. The study highlights supplement-related incidents including adverse reactions, misleading advertising, and even an increase in diseases that some pills claim to treat.
Some of the most worrisome news is that not only are some supplements not all-natural as they claim to be, but they could also be laced with prescription drugs. These prescriptions can interfere with other drugs and cause kidney failure, a stroke, or even death.
Most supplements recalled had the same ingredients as prescriptions marketed for weight loss, bodybuilding, and sexual enhancement. Consumers wanting a natural alternative to Viagra, for example, may be buying an herbal remedy that’s spiked with the same active ingredient used in Viagra – sildenafil.
This problem recently showed up in the 2012 Olympic games when bodybuilder Hysen Palaku was barred from competing after testing positive for steroids. The Albanian said he only took herbal supplements and was unaware they contained a drug.
The FDA has also cited dozens of weight loss supplements for containing pharmaceuticals, many sold at retailers like the Vitamin Shoppe with no need for a prescription. Dietary supplements such as StarCaps, Superslim, Slim Up, and many others have been investigated for containing undeclared drugs.
New research is also beginning to examine whether some popular supplements are as helpful as previously assumed.
A 2011 study showed that men who took high doses of vitamin E had a 17 percent increase in developing prostrate cancer. Another study found that after surveying 24,000 adults for 11 years, calcium supplements increased their risk of heart attack by 86 percent.
And when it comes to vitamins for cancer, don’t count either. Some clinical trials with antioxidant nutrients showed an increase in cancer risk. The head of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Institutes of Health admitted to the American Free Press in a 2011 interview that “everybody is confused,” when asked about taking antioxidants for cancer. This news was anything but reassuring.
Even vitamins and minerals that provide “healthy benefits” and are supposedly safe to take may be harmful, the Consumer Reports study shows. This is because overdosing on them can lead to adverse side effects. Taking more than 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamins A, D, E, K, calcium, or iron, for instance, can lead to health problems.
While many people believe that the FDA wouldn’t put a product on the shelf if wasn’t safe, this isn’t the case. Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the government. The FDA only has the ability to recall a product, but not until it’s been on the market and they can prove it’s unsafe.
In addition, warning labels are not required to state adverse health affects. St. John’s Wort, for instance – a popular herbal medicine for treating depression – can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills and blood thinners, but the label is not required to state that.
So what’s the message here? Thoroughly investigate all dietary supplements before taking them and consult with your physician to learn about possible side effects. And remember, the truth is that tried and true remedies are often the safest, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising. There’s no such thing as magic, cure-all pill. The vitamin industry is a $20 billion enterprise in the U.S. alone, and it’s good to remember that’s what they are out to do – make money. While many of their products may look safe, playing Russian roulette with your health is never a good idea.