Can you have too much of a good thing? A new study published in the journal Hepatology says yes, at least in regards to dietary health supplements.
While it’s widely known that toxins like alcohol and excessive amounts of medication can cause problems with the liver and kidneys, neutraceuticals like green tea extract or other supplements found online or in health food stores can cause similar effects on the liver.
A research team at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, including liver expert Dr. Victor Navarro, published the report, which scrutinized bodybuilding and weight-loss supplements in particular.
Some of the other supplements that were evaluated were used for depression, digestive upset, sexual performance, and other uses, but the weight loss and bodybuilding supplements were responsible for roughly half the cases of liver damage that were sampled.
Neutraceuticals, the market of health supplements that do not require medical supervision, are part of an old, but growing trend of self-medication for disease prevention. By 2017, it is anticipated that the market for these products will grow to $204.8 billion.
This industry has been long been the subject of inspection, as not all supplements are created equal according to various state laws.
Neutraceuticals are regulated according to a different set of guidelines than other foods and drugs, and are are not approved by the FDA.
In 1994, the Dietary Supplement, Health and Education Act revoked the FDA’s authority to regulate supplements. The definition of a supplement under the DSHEA is: “a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs or other botanicals; a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract or combination of the ingredients listed above”.
The FDA says that the manufacturer of any dietary supplement is required to make sure that its product is safe, nor make any false or misleading claims about the product, and to comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA regulations, yet the FDA will not take it upon themselves to approve or research these products. Because of this, many supplement companies do not comply with the guidelines and the safety of these products are seldom researched.
Green tea extract is a compound found in green tea, concentrated into pill form. Contrary to popular belief, it does not have the same effects as a strongly brewed cup of green tea.
Since green tea is approved by the FDA and has health benefits on its own, many believe that green tea extract does as well. In reality, this supplement poses the highest risk to the liver, and 10% of those who have suffered acute liver failure from the supplement will die as a result.
Green tea extract is a key component in some weight loss supplements, contributing to the statistic that users of these supplements are at higher risk of liver diseases.
After concerns about the effects of green tea extract, both Spain and France recalled a weight loss product from their shelves and have been more strict about which supplements they allow on the market.