Loosely Regulated Botanical Supplements Consumed Like Candy Can Do You Harm Than Good – Beware!

Date : Sep 15, 2017 Author : Shambhu Nath Jha Category : Healthcare

The FDA regulates drugs but it only has a limited influence on botanical supplements by way of manufacturing guidelines.

Would commercials passengers rest easy if an unlicensed pilot was flying an aircraft? What if every driver was allowed to drive on either side of the road? Total chaos and anarchy would be the order of the day! Guidelines and regulations might seem stifling on occasion but they play a major role in maintaining a sense of order and calm.

 Guidelines are extremely important in the botanical supplements market as well. Some readers might wonder why dietary supplements need to be regulated as they are ‘not drugs but supplements’. A short explanation given below would help clear any confusion.

Any individual reliant on the botanical supplements market does so to improve their general health and wellbeing. The supplement typically has some component that benefits the body in certain ways. The active supplement ingredients that positively affect the body are chemicals. When chemicals are taken to affect health, they are known as pharmaceuticals.

The mere fact that these supplements are unregulated or that they come from natural sources is hardly a guarantee of their efficacy or safety. While it is possible for the botanical supplement to benefit the body when consumed in higher doses, it can also harm the body, or even be lethal in a worst-case scenario.

Take the example of green tea. Green tea has polyphenols that prevent fat from breaking down in the intestine. This reduces the absorption of fat which thereby reduces the calories absorbed. Blocking the absorption of fat should logically assist weight reduction and people who drink green tea once or twice a day will not face any issues. 

A number of green tea derived products are already available in the botanical supplements market. If one adheres to the theory of ‘Some is good so more is better’, then why would consuming 10 cups of green tea be harmful? Unfortunately, there are now several recorded cases of liver failure in individuals who took green tea supplements. Almost 20% of drug-induced liver injuries can be linked to botanical supplements! 

Consuming green tea in moderation provides small chemicals that have no significant toxic impact in the body. However, a botanical supplement with a concentrated dose 10 times higher can raise blood levels to the point that it can destroy the liver. People have even lost their lives due to this; that is why the law stepping in is absolutely critical. There are strict guidelines that limit the misleading and outrageous claims that manufacturers can make without any substantive proof of effectiveness.

Manufacturers can be liable to costly lawsuits if they make false claims. That is why they usually use the term ‘supports’ as this merely suggests benefits without any direct purported claim. This works on the following principle – if a substance is essential for healthy body functioning and if its deficiency is harmful, then it can be said that the substance supports the organ or system health. However, it doesn’t automatically mean that excess consumption is advantageous.

The only way that botanical supplements are currently regulated is by tort or fraud laws, particularly in the U.S. These laws are enforced by state attorneys and the Federal Trade Commission. They do not come under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. In fraud cases, the FTC should ideally be the agency to take these companies head-on.

However, both the FTC and attorney generals operate on a shoestring budget. Non-governmental attorneys and foundations could potentially file lawsuits but these are extremely complex and expensive. That is why the motto ‘Better safe than sorry’ is perfect for the botanical supplements market with more stringent regulations recommended.

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