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Dr. Kulka’s advice on Supplements

Green Tea and Other Nutritional Supplements – Helpful or Hurtful?

 I want to tell you about some important information related to dietary, nutrition and health supplements that you may have tried, thought about trying, or know someone who has tried them. This information has recently come to the forefront of the news media. Perhaps you have read about it already?

First, all supplements may not be bad for you or particularly harmful, and some may benefit your health. Having said that, however, I also need to inform you that the supplement market is poorly regulated. Supplement manufacturers are not required to study their products, identify warnings, list side effects, or adhere to strict standards regarding dosage variability from bottle to bottle.

The FDA does not monitor dietary or health supplements, and they are not required to claim that the products are intended for any particular condition. There are often misleading statements on the labels, and consumers cannot rely on the FDA to confirm the claims because the FDA is not overseeing the process.

New York Times reported, “Spike in Harm to Liver is Tied to Dietary Aids,”

A New York Times article noted, “Spike in Harm to Liver is Tied to Dietary Aids,” revealed that several people taking green tea extract developed serious liver toxicity and one child, who was taking the extract in hopes of losing weight, ended up requiring a liver transplant due to overt liver failure from this supplement. The article explains that the FDA estimated that up to 20% of all severe liver injuries treated in one recent hospital network study were attributed to over-the-counter supplement ingestion.

Cases of Supplement-Induced Organ Damage.

In my medical practice, I have seen cases of supplement-induced organ damage. I treated several cases of kidney injury in boys and young men taking over-the-counter protein powders intended as muscle-building supplements for weight lifting. I’ve also seen liver failure from Kava Kava and numerous cases of GERD and other GI issues from multivitamins.

Say what you will about the pharmaceutical industry in the United States and the overprescribing of many substances. Still, the FDA is very stringent in its guidelines to approve the medication for the public. The FDA in this country is much more stringent than most European versions. This regulating body makes manufacturers prove that their products clearly benefit over the harm they may cause for the indicated and intended medical usage. The FDA makes the manufacturers label their products with warnings of interactions and possible side effects. They continually update products and warnings as the public reports cases.  

None of this takes place regarding over-the-counter supplements you see on the shelf in the pharmacy or supermarket. Think about that the next time you look through the aisle and see dozens of bottles of Vitamin B, C, and D, green tea extract, amino acids, and protein powders. While I sometimes recommend nutritional supplements, I stick to the ones backed up by medical science clinical studies, outcomes, and known benefits. I also have the ability to understand the side effects and interactions with other medications.   

Manufacturer Claims Often Misleading & Interactions With Prescription Medications

Many vitamins, such as vitamin K, interact with blood thinners. St John’s Wort can affect the dosages of certain prescription medications, and others can interact with other prescription medications or medical conditions. I would always suggest that people discuss their supplements or thoughts about particular supplements with their physician and not rely solely on the manufacturer’s claims or ANY Internet-based information as they are often misleading or outright wrong.  

Drinking green tea would most likely be better than taking a concentrated green tea extract that has not been clinically studied and has already been found to cause liver toxicity. Over the last few years, I have become very fond of a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and natural grains as a source of vitamins and minerals. You can get a plethora of micronutrients from these food groups with proven benefits without risking deleterious side effects. This diet crushes any benefit you think you may be getting from a standard over-the-counter multivitamin that has never been shown to have a significant beneficial overall effect.

Overall, diet and exercise are the best paths to fitness. Read which one I think helps more.

Medical Disclaimer
The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.



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Dr. Kulka

Dr. Kulka is a board-certified family medicine physician with 20 years of clinical experience. Placing an emphasis on improving wellness and avoiding illness, Dr. Kulka has a passion for educating people about their health, weight loss options, and specific medical concerns in an easy-to-understand way.

If you, like so many people, struggle to be consistent with your healthy diet and exercise routine, or feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start on your journey to a healthier lifestyle, check out our Seriously Simple Steps to Health and Wellness program.

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