15 harmful ingredients found in supplements

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (WPVI) -- Dietary supplements are now a 40-billion dollar a year industry.

But Consumer Reports says they're not as safe as you might think.

Twenty-three thousand people a year wind up in an emergency room after taking a supplement.

And a Consumer Reports investigation calls out 15 supplement ingredients being sold now that are potentially harmful.

Supplements are easier to get than prescription drugs and they carry an aura of being more natural and thus safer.

70 percent of us take a dietary dietary supplement just about every day.

A Consumer Reports survey finds 50 percent of Americans believe that supplement makers test their products for effectiveness.

And 38 percent believe that supplements have been tested for safety by the Food and Drug Administration.

"For the most part, supplement makers don't have to prove that their products are safe. They don't have to prove that they work as advertised. And they don't have to prove that packages contain what the labels say that they do," says Jeneen Interlandi, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

Consumer Reports has just released an investigation on supplements.

"Because the regulations are so weak, dietary supplements can be contaminated, says Interland.

"They can be ineffective. They can be spiked with illegal or prescription drugs and they can have harmful side effects," she continues.

In response, the Council for Responsible Nutrition representing supplement manufacturers says that supplements are adequately regulated and the vast majority are safe.

Consumer Reports has identified 15 supplement ingredients to avoid that have been linked to serious health hazards.

For example, people use yohimbe for obesity, sexual dysfunction and depression.

However, it can raise blood pressure and heart rate, cause headaches, panic attacks, seizures, liver and kidney problems, and possibly death.

Yet Consumer Reports found that and 14 other supplement ingredients in products sold by major retailers such as GNC, Costco, CVS, Walmart and Whole Foods.

Other ingredients it says to avoid include caffeine powder, green tea extract, aconite, comfrey, kava, lobelia, and red yeast rice.

Consumer Reports believes the best way to protect the public is to have stronger federal regulation of supplements.

The organization cautions that many supplements can also interact in dangerous ways with prescription drugs.

So you should tell your doctor what supplements you are taking before you start a new prescription.

For the full list of ingredients to avoid, click here.

This report is based on an article in the September 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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