12 Dangerous Dietary Supplements
From Andro to Comfrey
Just because it's "natural" doesn't mean it's innocuous. Consumer Reports hopes to get that message across with its recent publication of a "dirty dozen" list -- 12 supplements the magazine recommends the public avoid. Often sold under different names in single or multi-ingredient combination products, these supplements have been implicated in cancer, severe liver or kidney damage, heart problems, and even death. While all supplements are not equally dangerous, consumers need to take responsibility when it comes to using them: "You should buy products from a company or source that you know and trust," says Judy Blatman of the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, D.C. "In addition, you should consult with your healthcare professional about any supplements you are considering taking." In the meantime, think twice before putting the following supplements in your shopping basket. Consumer Reports rated them as definitely hazardous, very likely hazardous, and likely hazardous. Here's what you need to know: Common name: Androstenedione (or andro, for short) What it is used for: Ups blood levels of testosterone and is often used by athletes for bodybuilding. Baseball player Mark McGuire famously used the substance. Possible danger: Increases cancer risks; decreases HDL, or "good" cholesterol Consumer Reports rating: Very likely hazardous Common name: Aristolochic acid What it's used for: Found in traditional Chinese medicines used in treating such ailments as eczema, endometriosis, and backache Possible danger: Linked to kidney failure and cancer Consumer Reports rating: Definitely hazardous Common name: Bitter orange What it is used for: Works like ephedra, the stimulant used for weight loss, which was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. Possible danger: High blood pressure; increased risk of heart arrhythmias, heart attack, and strokes with its use Consumer Reports rating: Likely hazardous Common name: Chaparral What it is used for: Has been marketed as a "blood purifier," cancer cure, and acne treatment Possible danger: Linked to abnormal liver function that is often irreversible Consumer Reports rating: Very likely hazardous Common name: Comfrey What it is used for: Drunk as a tea or "green beverage" for stomach ulcers or as a "blood purifier" Possible danger: Contains toxins called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which have been linked to abnormal liver function or damage, often irreversible, when taken internally. Deaths have been reported. Consumer Reports rating: Very likely hazardous
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