Question: Are dietary supplements safe?

Question and AnswerQuestion and Answer

Dietary supplements are not all the same.

Supplements

Today, if you walk to your local nutrition store or vitamin aisle, you will find a cure for just about everything that ails you. Many of these supplement manufacturers make outlandish claims and there’s very little evidence to back up the use of their products. The questions that need to be answered is whether they are safe and whether they actually work.

Do supplements work? Some supplements actually work. For example, iron supplementation in someone who has anemia or vitamin supplementation in someone with a deficiency work to supplement part of the nutrition you have trouble absorbing or cannot eat due to a dietary restriction. This being said, many of those who take supplements are taking items our bodies do not need and often there is little evidence to suggest that they are needed or for that matter helpful. For instance, many Americans take large dosed of vitamin D in order to help with pain or even weight loss and either the research is poor or not there at all. Most of the benefits of vitamin D have been proven false.

Are supplements safe? The answer is yes and no. Some are safe but others are extremely dangerous. Metabolism boosters or thermogenic compounds have been tied to heat stroke, high blood pressure, heart attacks, liver failure, and death. Other weight loss compounds have been tied to kidney damage and membranous glomerular nephropathy​[1]​. Heck, some have been found to have deleterious levels of toxins such as mercury. The good news is that mercury will help with weight loss, but only after it kills you.

Mr. Yuck
Mr. Yuck

The worst thing about weight loss supplements is that they often contain compounds that aren’t on their ingredient list. I am pretty certain that the weight loss supplement MetaSwitch did not list the toxin mercury in its ingredients list, but yet testing reveals toxic levels. You just can’t many of these supplement companies give you honest answers.

The bottom-line: Some supplements might be safe, but I recommend that you discuss them with a medical provider and only purchase supplements from big-name manufacturers. If they make an outlandish claim, they are probably full of it and I would avoid it at all cost. You only get a chance to live once and it is not worth the risk for a few pounds of weight loss.

  1. [1]
    M. L. Parker, C. Stefan, H. N. Reich, and V. Kulasingam, “What Is Really in This Weight Loss Supplement?,” Jrnl App Lab Med, pp. 270–273, Oct. 2018 [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1373/jalm.2018.027169
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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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