Consumer Reports worked with experts from the independent research group Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database to identify 12 ingredients in supplements that may have potential health risks, possibly leading to problems with cardiovascular, kidney or liver health. Those ingredients are: aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe. Some of the ingredients, according to the report, have had a previous FDA warning.
"Supplements are marketed with very seductive and sometimes overblown sales pitches for increasing your performance in the bedroom, slimming down or boosting your athletic prowess," said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor for Consumer Reports, in a news release. "And consumers are easily lulled into believing that supplements can do no harm because they're ‘natural.' However, some natural ingredients can be hazardous, and on top of that the FDA has repeatedly found hazardous ingredients, including synthetic prescription drugs, in supplements."
The FDA also got dinged for not inspecting Chinese factories where many of the raw materials for supplements originate.
Consumers are cautioned to check with their doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements, to be especially careful with weight-loss, sexual-enhancement and strength-building supplements, not to overdo supplements and to report any symptoms or side effects to a physician. The "USP Verified" mark on products indicates that the manufacturer has had U.S. Pharmacopeia verify the ingredients. USP is a nonprofit, private company that sets standards for prescription and over the counter medication and healthcare products manufactured or sold in the U.S.
The report also suggests not believing everything you hear or read about a product. "If a claim sounds too good to be true," it says, "it probably is."