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The dietary supplement industry brings in billions of dollars each year, with an estimated 90,000 products on the market, including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, probiotics, or other substances in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form.
About half of American adults take at least one dietary supplement for health or wellness, or to fill nutrition gaps.
As for whether or not herbal supplements can potentially cause liver failure, the answer is yes.
Jeffrey Weinstein, MD, medical director of liver transplantation and hepatobiliary services at Methodist Hospital, told NBC 5 that, while acute liver failure is rare, about 30% to 40% of cases are linked to herbal or dietary supplements.
“We have found that the dietary supplements are a common cause of liver injury,” Victor J. Navarro, MD, from the department of transplantation at the Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia, said in his presentation at The Liver Meeting 2017.
To analyze the contents of herbal and dietary supplements and the frequency of mislabeling, the researchers collected data from 2,268 patients enrolled in the Drug Induced Liver Injury Network between 2003 and March 2016. Of the 341 supplements collected, the researchers have performed chemical analysis of 229 and found that 26 did not have any ingredients labelled.
“We found that really the majority overall of products that patients give us are mislabeled. That is, what’s in the product, once analyzed chemically, does not match what’s on the label,” Navarro said. “As we looked carefully at these cases, we could look at the case and say, with some degree of confidence, that the unlabeled hepatotoxic ingredient was the cause of injury. What this tells us is that not only is mislabeling common, but those mislabeled ingredients may very well be the cause of injury.”
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also links liver injuries to, herbals, or dietary supplements, adding that it's an increasingly important health problem in the US.
Unlike prescription or over-the-counter drugs, which must be approved by the FDA before they can be marketed, the FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are sold.
One of the biggest concerns about supplement safety is adulteration with ingredients that aren’t listed on the label, including ingredients that may be toxic at high doses.
In some cases, a less expensive ingredient is used instead of a more expensive ingredient listed on the label.
In other cases, the supplement is illegally adulterated with pharmaceutical drugs — sometimes drugs that have been pulled from the market because of safety concerns, or have never been approved in the first place.
Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA as food, not as drugs.
Products containing hidden drugs are also sometimes falsely marketed as dietary supplements, putting consumers at even greater risk. For these reasons, it is important to consult with a health care professional before using any dietary supplement.
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CLICK BELOW if you took a herbal or dietary supplement, were diagnosed with liver failure, and you would like a free evaluation of you claim.