Dietary supplements are a huge business in America. Annually more than $32 billion is spent on vitamins, diet pills and protein products, all promised to improve health and fitness. While there are some products on the market living up to their promises, many not only fail to produce any healthful result, but also have been linked to liver failure or death.
Dietary supplements are blamed for almost 20 percent of the drug-related liver injuries that are serious enough to be seen in hospitals. The actual percent of injuries is probably much higher since many people do not seek the medical attention they need. This estimate also does not include the victims that die from dietary supplement liver failure, unless they were in a “reporting” hospital at the time of their death. There are only eight “reporting hospitals in the US. It is impossible to determine what the actual number of liver ailments related to dietary supplements might be.
How Does the Liver Function?
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body, along with the heart and brain function. The liver in the largest organ and has more than 500 identified functions but simply put; it is a giant filter. All of the blood from the stomach and intestines is carried into the liver where it is purified. The liver removes nutrients from the blood and makes them available for the body to use. The liver also breaks down chemicals in the blood. There chemicals can come from food and drugs, prescription and non-prescription alike. Once broken down, the liver sends wasteful substances to the intestines to be removed as feces or to the kidneys to be removed as urine.
The liver works like a giant warehouse where there is a constant stream of incoming and outgoing goods and services. The liver is constantly cleaning blood, sorting and storing materials for the body to use, and sending the excess or unneeded substances out for removal. The liver can become overloaded and overworked when too many chemicals are consumed, and cargo gets unbalanced.
Where do all of these chemicals come from? The chemicals the liver has to deal with are everywhere. The air, water, and food contain toxins that the liver has to filter out. Then there are additional chemicals in drugs, including dietary supplements. At some point, the liver cannot work any harder; it becomes saturated, and begins to fail.
Food and Drug Administration Oversight
There are several things that make dietary supplements harmful, but the most important thing to remember is that they are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may contain ingredients that are not listed on the labels, so it is impossible to tell what is in them. Some of the most dangerous products are bodybuilding supplements that contain unlisted steroids. Many of the so-called “fat burning” products have a history of liver failure associated with them, as do some of the “green tea extracts.” According to the FDA, dietary supplements like vitamins, minerals, weight loss products and bodybuilding products are not considered to be a “food or a “drug”, so they don’t control the industry.
The FDA has allowed the dietary supplement business to follow the honor system of reporting, testing and labeling. The FDA estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following quality control standards for safety and testing. The FDA can remove products from the marketplace, but only after it is found to be harmful to consumers, so once again, Americans get to be the test dummies.
Americans have the false belief that the government agencies are protecting us, like a firewall between bad drugs and humans and that is not the case. Companies have the right to make money under our economic system. The government steps in to remove produces from the store shelves only after they have been proven defective or harmful.
Are These Products Misleading Consumers?
Most of these dietary supplements are very misleading, and consumers do not have all the information they need to make informed purchases. These products are often advertised as being “natural,” which implies an earth-based creation. However, after these “natural” products are run through a laboratory, they do not resemble anything found in nature. Many products tout having “green tea extract” in them. Green tea has been used for centuries because of its many qualities, but it has always been used as a plant leaf for teas or compresses. The “green tea extract” in today’s dietary supplements is so highly processed and concentrated that it has been linked to liver failure in many patients.
There are protein products that promise strong, lean muscles. Protein seems harmless; it is the main nutrient in meat, eggs, and nuts. However, the protein in dietary supplements is not a food group; it is a chemical concoction with additives not listed on the label. The consumer has no way of knowing what the bottle really contains or how it might affect them.
Signs of Liver Stress or Liver Failure
There are many signs that the liver is stressed or failing, some can be confused with other common ailments, but if the symptoms persist or worsen, medical assistance is recommended. A simple blood test will reveal how the liver is functioning. Early symptoms are:
•Loss of Appetite
As the liver failure progressives the symptoms becomes more severe, including:
•Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
•Swollen and Painful Abdomen
If the treatment is started soon enough and the cause of the liver failure is removed from the patient’s life, many people recover over time, with no long-term harm done to the liver. In cases where the liver has been contaminated for a long time with harmful dietary supplements, doctors might be able to treat and save part of the liver that is still functioning, but it can have live altering consequences. In severe cases, the patient will have to undergo a liver transplant to save their lives. If left untreated, the patient will die when the liver stops functioning.
Please do not hesitate to contact the professionals at Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP for a free consultation today.