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Dietary Supplements Blamed for Sharp Rise in Drug-Related Liver Injuries — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
December 23, 2013

Dietary Supplements Blamed for Sharp Rise in Drug-Related Liver Injuries

By Amy Orciari Herman

Dietary supplements, including many marketed for muscle-building and weight loss, account for a spike in drug-related liver injuries over the past decade, according to a front-page story in Sunday's New York Times. Many patients ultimately recover, but some end up requiring transplants or dying from liver failure.

Supplements accounted for nearly 20 percent of drug-related liver injuries that led to hospitalization in 2010-2012, the Times reports, up from 7 percent in 2004. The data, from the NIH's National Liver Network, showed that many of the products were bodybuilding supplements that contained steroids not listed on the label. Use of green tea extract was also frequently reported. The extract contains catechins, which are said to increase metabolism; in high doses, they can cause liver toxicity.

Of over 50,000 supplements sold in the U.S., less than 1% have been examined well enough to determine their adverse effect profile, one expert told the Times.

Reader Comments (2)

Frank Jordan Other Healthcare Professional, Unspecified
Competing Interests: I am Research Director for a nutritional supplement corporation involved for almost 15 years in sponsoring continuous U.S. Medical School basic research being smeared by inuendo in your all-inclusive headline which lacks sufficient specificity on sources and characteristics of supplements the subjecdt of your article.

Why do negative reports on pharmaceuticals contain the specific drug, while negative headlines on a dietary supplement(s) condemn an entire industry instead of the specific substances or products reviewed including their source and whether natural or synthetic? Who is the "...one expert...and what is his data source?" Could we have more detail on the causes of the other 80% of drug-related liver injuries; with acetaminophen as an example?

Russell L Blaylock Physician, Surgery, Specialized, Theoretical Neuroscience Research LLC

This is another hatchet job by the medical/pharmaceutical complex. Pharmaceuticals kill over 100,000 people a year and if we look just at liver disease the number one link is acetaminophen, even when used in recommended doses. If the medical orthodoxy would stop waging this war against the nutraceutical industry and work with those of us who know the science of these compounds, we would all be a lot better off. It is of note that targeted in this report is the one area where health is not the main concern and that is exercise enhancement and bodybuilding. Virtually every area of medicine would benefit from an integrated approach. It is the patients who are being harmed by this vicious war by orthodox medicine.

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