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Weight Loss Supplements Increase Risk of Liver Injury

May 24, 2012

A new study aims to underscore the risks of liver injury posed by dietary supplement products used to either lose weight or build muscle.

According to a HealthDay News report this week on recent research from Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, more than 100 cases of liver injury caused exclusively by taking dietary supplements have been identified among a small pool of patients. The study does not directly link taking dietary supplements with causing liver injuries but notes there is a strong association requiring more research, especially as use of these products and their quantity increases exponentially.

The results of the small study have not been published in a medical journal but were presented this week at a medical conference, Digestive Disease Week, held in San Diego, Calif.

Among those who suffered liver injury due to their taking dietary supplements, most were “male, white, and overweight.” The report identifies almost 40 percent of Americans as taking some form of dietary supplement available over-the-counter. These supplements are sold at health and nutrition stores and at retail pharmacies.

The study notes that many Americans taking dietary supplements are unaware of the dangers of taking them, especially to their livers. Liver injury, the study notes, is the leading reason why drugs and drug-related products are recalled from the market. Because they’re available over-the-counter and sold widely, many consumers believe they are generally safe.

Making a determination on which dietary supplements pose the greatest risks to consumers is difficult, researchers lament, as few regulations exist governing what ingredients can be included in them.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration is targeting makers of supplements containing the supplement DMAA. Claiming the supplements with DMAA are making medical claims that can not be backed by scientific evidence, the FDA is considering these popular supplements “adulterated” and taken off the market until those claims are erased.

Many supplements have flooded the market but those making medicinal claims, such as the ability to aid in weight loss, must be backed by medical evidence before they’re sold as such on the market. Making a medicinal claim requires approval from the FDA and could cost makers of these supplements millions of dollars to prove.

Supplements with DMAA are suspected of posing serious risks to those taking them and have been implicated in the recent deaths of two U.S. Army soldiers in training at domestic bases. Each soldier died shortly after completing or stopping a workout and had been taking DMAA supplements sold at the base.

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