EXPERTS REVEAL HIDDEN DANGERS BEHIND SOME SUPPLEMENTS
herbal supplements contain hidden pharmaceutical ingredients that could be
causing serious health risks, according to a team of experts from Queen's
University Belfast, Kingston University London and LGC.
Professor Duncan Burns, a forensically experienced analytical chemist from the
Queen's University Belfast's Institute for Global Food Security, has been
working with a team of specialists on a peer-reviewed paper to examine the
detection of illegal ingredients in the supplements.
experts included Dr Michael Walker from the Government Chemist Programme at LGC
and Professor Declan Naughton from Kingston University.
research found that over-the-counter supplements -- commonly advertised to
treat obesity and erectile dysfunction problems -- are labelled as fully herbal
but often include potentially dangerous pharmaceutical ingredients, which are
not listed on the label.
Burns from Queen's University, who is working to advance knowledge in this
area, explained: "Our review looked at research from right across the
globe and questioned the purity of herbal food supplements. We have found that
these supplements are often not what customers think they are -- they are being
deceived into thinking they are getting health benefits from a natural product
when actually they are taking a hidden drug.
products are unlicensed medicines and many people are consuming large
quantities without knowing the interactions with other supplements or medicines
they may be taking. This is very dangerous and there can be severe side
survey raises serious questions about the safety of slimming supplements
containing Sibutramine. Sibutramine was licensed as the medicine Reductil until
2010, when it was withdrawn across Europe and the US due to an increased risk
of heart attacks and strokes associated with the use of the drug.
and sulfoaildenafil were among the most frequently undeclared ingredients in
products for erectile dysfunction. When taken with other medicines containing
nitrates, they can lower blood pressure drastically and cause serious health
Burns noted: "This is a real issue as people suffering from conditions
like diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension are frequently prescribed
nitrate containing medicines. If they are also taking a herbal supplement to
treat erectile dysfunction, they could become very ill.
who take these products will not be aware they have taken these substances and
so when they visit their doctor they may not declare this and it can be
difficult to determine what is causing the side effects. It is a very dangerous
Declan Naughton explained: "This work highlights the vital role research
and, in particular, techniques like datamining, can play in informing
regulators about current trends in supplement contamination. This is very
important to ensure effective testing strategies and, ultimately, to help keep
the public safe."
Michael Walker commented: "The laboratory tests we describe in our paper
will assist regulators to tackle this problem proactively to protect consumers
and responsible businesses."