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What’s in your supplements could be killing you, magazine finds

September 9, 2016

supplementsWritten by Kathleen O’Brien | NJ Advance Media for 

That cute little pill that promises so much may also contain additives that can cause cancer, cardiac arrest or organ damage, according to an investigation by the non-profit publication Consumer Reports.

The magazine’s researchers looked at vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals, along with other “natural” products that are available in grocery stores, pharmacies, nutrition stores and online.

What it discovered was at least 15 ingredients that can be dangerous — especially to people who have underlying health problems. Some have healthy-sounding names, such as “red yeast rice,” which can interact with cholesterol-lowering drugs in a risky manner.

Most consumers don’t realize that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not oversee these products in the same manner as it regulates prescription drugs, the study authors stated. So long as a product does not claim to treat an illness, it does not need to prove either its efficacy or its safety, according to Consumer Reports.

The consumer group also sent “secret shoppers” to big-box stores, chain pharmacies, and vitamin specialty shops to see what kind of advice a consumer might receive from store staff.

After visiting 60 stores in 17 states, the shoppers reported that employees rarely warned them about the risks of products containing the 15 dangerous ingredients, nor inquired about any pre-existing conditions that might interact badly with the proposed purchases.

Some of the questionable products are even sold by doctors’ offices and hospitals, according to the report.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, the trade group representing nutritional supplements, dispute the magazine’s contention that faulty products are widely available. Some small companies are marketing unsafe ingredients, said the Council’s president, Steve Mister, but the big, name-brand retailers sell products that “are very safe for consumers,” he said.

Photo by (Fotolia) (Fotolia).