The liver is our prime defense against toxins. Its job is to filter all the blood that comes from food before letting it into the rest of our body. That means that the liver is the first organ under the attack of all sorts of toxins we take from one source or another, including from various supplements. The more toxins we ingest, the more under pressure our liver is to detoxify our blood, and the more damaged it can get. Unfortunately, we are getting addicted to all sorts of supplements, particularly if we are body builders, athletes or are trying to lose weight. Many of those supplements contain ingredients that are, if taken in larger doses or for a long time, dangerous for our liver and for the body in general.
Liver and supplements
Scientists lead by Dr. Victor Navarro, from the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, conducted a small study funded by the US Drug Induced Liver Injury Network. They found that, of all supplements commonly taken by the consumers, those taken by body builders and people trying to lose weight are the most likely to cause liver damage.
Although the findings of this study have not been published yet, they are based examining 109 patients who were treated for liver damage caused by dietary supplements. Several other studies confirm their findings.
Scientists believe that the problem lays in the fact that the dietary supplements on the market do not require enough scrutiny and FDA approval, so the consumers often do not know what exactly they are taking.
Who is in danger?
We tend to try to take shortcuts and use supplements to achieve faster results, whether it is building a muscle mass or losing weight. Supplements contain active ingredients that are meant to help us do that, but how much of any active ingredient is dangerous is not often known, or advertised. The more we push supplements instead of healthy, balanced nutrition and regular exercise, the more we are in danger of falling pray to one or more of active ingredients in the supplements.
Every day there is a new miracle supplement on the market that will solve all your problems. Even if you read the ingredients very carefully, you will often find that the most important, miraculous ingredients are those that are less known and even less researched. Even when they show initial excellent results, we do not know, because nobody researched it, how much of that ingredient is too much, who should not take it and for whom it can be deadly.
By the time some dietary supplement is withdrawn from the market, it is often too late and someone paid the price with seriously damaged liver.
How to check the supplements” ™ claim?
If you are really determined to take some supplement which you believe will do you a world of good, first talk to your doctor. Show him the label and the list of ingredients. Your doctor will know which of those ingredients is counter indicated for some of your health issues. He will also be able to monitor your vital signs to be able to spot trouble at the first sign. Stay away from the supplements coming from unknown labs and from supplements researched in countries you have never heard of. Reputable manufacturers have their own labs and have more to lose if one of their products is found to cause liver or other damage. Start with small doses to see how your body reacts. Combine your supplements with healthy food choices and regular exercises. And whatever the media says, there are no miracle cures.
Liver injury from medication is the main reason drugs are taken off the market. Dietary and herbal supplements — which do not require a prescription and can be bought over the counter or online — are used by up to 40 percent of people in the United States, but their potential side effects are not well-known.
In this study, funded by the U.S. Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, researchers looked at 109 cases of patients who appeared to have suffered liver injury because of dietary supplements. Most of the patients were male, white and overweight.
The study found that supplements for body building and weight loss were most likely to cause liver injury.
The results are scheduled to be presented today at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in San Diego.
“There is so little regulation of the many products on the market,” study leader Dr. Victor Navarro, professor of medicine, pharmacology and experimental therapies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said in a meeting news release. “We couldn’t possibly begin to figure out which products to target first without doing this research.”
The finding that body-building and weight-loss supplements are the most common causes of dietary-supplement-induced liver injury means these products could provide a target for regulatory efforts, Navarro suggested.
The study does not prove, however, that these supplements actually cause liver damage. The researchers merely noted an association that merits further investigation.
Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about dietary supplements.