Are Your Supplements Hurting Your Health?

herbal medicineSometimes it’s almost impossible to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and many people rely on dietary supplements to fill in the gaps. More than half of the adult population have taken them to stay healthy, lose weight, gain an edge in sports or in the bedroom, and avoid using prescription drugs. In 2009, we spent $26.7 billion on them, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, a trade publication.

But what consumers might not realize is that supplement manufacturers routinely, and legally, sell their products without being required to prove that they’re safe and effective.

What Makes Certain Supplements Dangerous?

A dozen ingredients commonly found in dietary supplements should be avoided, according to a new report, because they are linked to cancer, coma, kidney and liver damage, heart problems, and death.

Researchers from Consumer Reports worked with experts from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group, first identifying from a database of nearly 1,100 ingredients a group of about 25 ingredients that had been linked to serious problems either by research studies or case reports. The list was then reduced to the top 12, evaluating adverse events as well as how available the ingredients were and how aggressively the products containing them are promoted, said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor at Consumer Reports. She and her colleagues combed medical literature and other data as well.