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More Warnings About Supplements: The Dirty Dozen

August 6, 2010

Consumer Reports issued a list of 12 dietary supplements that could harm consumer health as evidenced by either clinical studies or adverse case reports. The supplements implicated are:

  • aconite
  • bitter orange
  • chaparral
  • colloidal silver
  • coltsfoot
  • comfrey
  • country mallow
  • germanium
  • greater celandine
  • kava
  • lobelia
  • yohimbe

Dietary supplements are not reviewed by the FDA for safety and can cause serious side-effects, especially when combined. People taking prescriptions drugs or who are pregnant/breastfeeding should never (never!) take supplements unless approved by a physician.

Although these 12 have been highlighted due to potential health risks, very few supplements are  tested for safety or efficacy. This includes popular choices like echinacea, ginko biloba and ginseng.

The way I look at it, if these substances had the amazing powers claimed by their marketers, the scientific community would probably know about it. So while it’s unlikely that you will reap substantial health benefits from these herbs, there is some chance of putting yourself at risk of side-effects.

Given the expense of dietary supplements, most people are better off spending that cash on fresh, whole foods that are proven to prevent disease and preserve health. Focusing on a balanced diet should alleviate any need for supplementation. If you think you are deficient in nutrients or have a health issue that needs resolution, it’s always a good bet to ask a dietician or doctor before self-treating with supplements.

Supplements are drugs, not food!

Photo: Clean Walmart
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