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Are Dietary Supplements Safe?

You've seen them in stores and have probably heard about the lawsuits about them. A Moment of Science looks at the safety behind Dietary Supplements.

pill box with pills

Photo: A. Belani (Flickr)

Many people take dietary supplements. But, are they safe?

Dietary supplements are big business. Every year, millions of health conscious consumers spend billions of dollars on ginkgo biloba, noni juice, multivitamins, and other supposedly health boosting substances.

But are dietary supplements really good for us?

Are Dietary Supplements Healthy?

In too many cases, maybe not, according to a Consumer Reports study.

The study singled out several suspect ingredients commonly found in dietary supplements that could be decidedly unhealthy.

Supplements And Your Body

Aconite, for example, is an ingredient used in supplements meant to treat joint pain. But it’s also been linked to nausea and heart rhythm disorders.

Bitter orange, which is used in weight loss supplements, has been linked to heart attack and stroke. Another common ingredient, coltsfoot, has been tied to cancer and liver damage.

Not all dietary supplements are dangerous. Many are probably harmless. Some may actually perform as advertised.

Are They Effective?

But very few studies have tested their effectiveness. And existing studies don’t do much to support the claims of dietary supplement makers and marketers.

Because dietary supplements are regulated very lightly, you can buy as much as you want, over the counter. But that doesn’t mean you should.

Tempting Benefits

The packaging may promise tempting health benefits. But when it comes to the safety of dietary supplements, there’s a lot that scientists don’t know.

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