Dangerous supplements pose a significant health risk, but these supplements are often viewed as safe. While all prescription and non-prescription drugs undergo strict regulation by the FDA in the United States, supplements don’t have to pass these standards. In fact, dietary supplements are treated more like special foods. Because they’re not considered drugs, they aren’t put through the same strict effectiveness and safety requirements. So while all the drugs purchased must be proven safe and effective, dietary supplements don’t have this scrutiny.
Considered Safe Until Proven Unsafe
In general, drugs are considered unsafe until they have been through rigorous testing and FDA has to approve any drug before it can be sold in the United States. Clinical trials are studies done that involve human volunteers, and series of these have to be performed before a drug can be released. Even after approval, the drug has to be manufactured under monitored conditions and packaged with information on dosage, route, and schedule.
In contrast, the 1994 Dietary Supplemental Health and Education Act defined supplements as a category of food that exempts them from this strenuous testing. They are considered to be safe unless proven otherwise. New products have to [image_right src=”https://widerun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Dangerous-supplements-300×220.jpg”]
provide the FDA with a reasonable amount of evidence that the ingredients are safe before being marketed. However, manufacturers are not required to test these new ingredients in clinical trails. Also, the FDA can only find supplements to be unsafe after they’ve caused harm.
Natural Doesn’t Mean Safe
Like many prescription medications, herbs and natural products can offer benefits. However, they can also have drug-like effects on the body. And, some of the products sold on the market today contain ingredients that can cause illness and even death. Sometimes, these supplements will contain drugs that aren’t listed on the label such as estrogens or steroids. Studies on dietary supplements have even found toxic substances like mercury, lead, arsenic, and pesticides. A study by researchers in Toronto found this to be the case when they analyzed 44 herbal supplements. They found that less than half of the supplements contained something that wasn’t on the label.
Bodybuilding and muscle supplements are a key area of concern as well. Some of the supplements advertised specifically for men promote muscle building effects. These supplements have been found to contain ingredients that are similar to Viagra or other medications potentially dangerous. In 2013, a supplement designed for muscle mass contained DMAA, a man-made drug. This supplement caused serious events, including several deaths before the FDA was able to remove it from the market.
Taking Supplements Safely
While there is always some risk for taking a supplement, some manufacturers of supplements follow the Pharmacopeial Convention quality standards. These manufacturers volunteer their products to have them tested for quality and purity by an outside company before they’re sold. To find the supplements, look for a UPS verified label. While this label does not mean that the supplement is 100% safe, it does decrease the risk. Dangerous supplements are important to notice, and consumers need to understand these risks.