Over the counter supplements are not regulated by the FDA—and many seemingly innocent products can lead to severe liver damage. "As surprising as it may seem, manufacturers are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their products are safe, or that they're effective for their advertised use, before they are sold," says Chuck Bell, programs director for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. "The rising number of liver injury cases is yet more evidence that the loose regulation of supplements is putting consumers at risk." Here are five products experts want you to avoid. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Doctors warn that bodybuilding supplements containing androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) can cause severe liver injury. "Bodybuilding supplements that contain AAS can lead to liver damage, including severe cholestatic hepatitis, which can take months to resolve," says Robert Fontana, M.D., University of Michigan's medical director of liver transplantation. "Additionally, various multi-ingredient nutritional supplements taken to enhance energy, increase performance and facilitate weight loss can lead to potentially severe, or even fatal, liver damage."
Green Tea Supplements
Green tea supplements can cause liver damage, experts say. "If you are drinking modest amounts of green tea you're very safe," says Prof Herbert Bonkovsky, director of liver services at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, who has been tracking green tea supplement-related injuries for nearly 20 years. "The greater risk comes in people who are taking these more concentrated extracts… Usually people are taking these green tea extracts trying to lose weight, so they're often not eating. We know from animal studies that fasted animals absorb a much higher percentage of the catechins than do fat animals. There may well be other factors of other drugs, other chemicals, use of alcohol that are also important as modifying factors."
Too much vitamin A can result in liver damage and blood clots. "Basically, there are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble," says Dawn Gerber, PharmD. "Although your body can excrete large amounts of water-soluble vitamins, it holds onto fat-soluble vitamins, which can be toxic at high levels."
Weight Loss Pills
Some weight loss supplements have been shown to cause liver inflammation, doctors warn. "The Food and Drug Administration says many diet pills are not even legal, even ones you can find on store shelves. Many diet pill products can be tainted, contaminated or contact stimulates, which can cause major health problems or death," says Gloria Verret BSN, CPN, RNIII. "Experts at the FDA tested some of the diet products and found 70 percent of them to be tainted with controlled substances, seizure medications, prescription drugs and drugs not approved in the US."
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice supplement has the potential to cause liver damage, according to experts. In one case, a 64-year-old woman developed liver damage after taking 1200 mg per day of red yeast rice supplements as an alternative to statins. "As this case demonstrates, red yeast rice supplement has the potential to cause severe adverse effects, such as acute liver injury," researchers warn. "Supplements are not necessarily safer than prescription medications, and physicians and patients should research their adverse effect profile before using them or approving their use."