Herbals and Dietary Supplements Increase Risk of Liver Injury


Herbals and dietary supplements increase the risk of liver injury up to 20 percent over a ten-year period, according to researchers. A study in the journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, published in Hepatology, reports when compared to conventional medication and bodybuilding supplements, non-bodybuilding supplements, most often used by middle-aged women, increases liver injuries, more often resulting in death or the need for transplantation.

Herbals and Dietary Supplements

Nearly half of all adult Americans use herbals and dietary supplements. Advanced educated, non-Hispanic women over 40 years of age use supplements most often, according to medical data.

The most commonly used supplements are multivitamins, fish oil, minerals, and calcium, according to information provided by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III.

In Philadelphia, Einstein Medical Center’s lead author, Dr. Victor Navarro referred to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 explaining the following, “While many Americans believe supplements to be safe, government regulations require less safety evidence to market products than what is required for conventional pharmaceuticals. With less stringent oversight for herbals and dietary supplements, there is greater potential for harmful consequences including life-threatening conditions.”

Since regulation on herbals and dietary supplements is minimal, there has been a growing need for research in this area.

In 2003, in an attempt to satisfy the need for additional research, the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases established the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN).

In the first report provided by DILIN, research shows that herbal and dietary supplements were identified as the second most common cause of liver injury. The purpose of this report is to track cases of liver injury caused by medications, herbals, and dietary supplements, excluding acetaminophen.

More on the Recent Study

Between 2004 and 2013, the recent study performed by Dr. Navarro and his colleagues enrolled 839 patients from eight DILIN referral centers and examined hepatotoxicity due to supplements compared to medications.

They found liver injury cases included 709 due to medications, 85 attributed to non-bodybuilding, and 45 caused by bodybuilding supplements.

The team of researchers also determined that among the enrolled cases during the study period, liver injuries from herbal and dietary supplements rose to 20 percent.

Liver injury from non-bodybuilding supplements was more common in middle-aged women.

Bodybuilding supplements caused prolonged jaundice in young men; however, no liver transplantation or fatalities occurred.

Liver transplantation or death occurred more often among cases of injury from non-bodybuilding supplements, 13 percent when compared to conventional medications, 3 percent.

Dr. Navarro explains, “Our study group is specific to DILIN centers and therefore we cannot conclude that liver injury due to herbals and dietary supplements in on the rise in the U.S. Further population-based study of liver injury due to herbal products and dietary supplements is needed.”

This recent report suggests there are potential dangers in taking herbals and dietary supplements. Greater effort is needed and necessary to improve and ensure safety when manufacturing and consuming these products.

Since the current governmental regulations on herbals and dietary supplements is somewhat lacks, added health and safety responsibility rests on the manufacturers and consumers.

George Zapo, CPH on EmailGeorge Zapo, CPH on FacebookGeorge Zapo, CPH on LinkedinGeorge Zapo, CPH on PinterestGeorge Zapo, CPH on TwitterGeorge Zapo, CPH on WordpressGeorge Zapo, CPH on Youtube
George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: https://georgezapo.com.