Consumers spend $32 billion a year on over-the-counter supplements which claim to treat a myriad of symptoms, including excess weight. Regardless of whether they work, the first thing anyone needs to know is whether a supplement is safe, or whether it can cause harm. This is not always an easy question to answer because there is little regulation of the industry as a whole.
The biggest area of concern for dietary supplements are issues of contamination – sometimes with unrelated chemicals, but other times with actual medications that are no longer available. This is particularly rampant in the weight loss category. For example, Sibutramine, which was pulled off the market years ago due to increased risk of cardiac events and strokes, is now showing up as an ingredient in some of these supplements. There are reports of supplements containing the prescription drug Lorcaserin that you can buy on the Internet. While you could experience a beneficial effect, because these are adulterated products you may be opening yourself up to a lot of adverse effects. And, your physician may not even know that they’re exposed to that pharmaceutical compound.
There are also other concerns related to drug interactions. An example might be a patient taking a blood thinner who also decides to take ginkgo biloba: this can dramatically increase risk for bleeding. The interaction between a certain blood pressure medication with ginkgo biloba can result in increased blood pressure – definitely not what we’d like to see.
One great resource for both doctors and patients regarding supplements is the US Pharmacopeia (http://www.usp.org/). Data on safety, purity, as well as interaction potential for USP-certified supplements are available on the site. Be sure to check the supplements you are taking here, and if they are not USP-certified, there may be cause for concern. If you take the Natura supplements while on the Ideal Protein protocol, you can have the reassurance that these are regulated and approved by Health Canada-verified Pharmalab (a similar Canadian organization).
Most importantly though is open communication with your physician here on Oahu. If you are taking or considering taking any supplement for your weight and health, make an appointment at our office in Kailua to meet with our medical team to discuss the possible risks or benefits.