Natural supplements with unnatural consequences

Over the holiday season, a Texas woman suffered acute liver damage after taking a natural supplement for a few months. Emily Goss was taking “Balance” capsules by Alani Nu, a company that specializes in producing and selling nutritional supplements. But this incident was not a one-time occurence.

Natural supplements are a type of dietary supplement. Although they are legal, most of the health benefits that are marketed aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On the FDA’s webpage about dietary supplements, “the law does not require the manufacturer or seller to prove to FDA’s satisfaction that the claim is accurate or truthful before it appears on the product.” There are few regulations for dietary supplements, and they are vague. The main requirement for natural supplement companies is that their products cannot be marketed to cure or treat diseases.

On Alani Nu’s website, the “Balance” supplement that Goss was taking is a fan favorite. This particular supplement boasts a 4.9 star rating out of 5 from over 8600 reviews. The company marketed the supplement as something that “support[s] hormonal balance, weight management, complexion, and fertility.” But on the packaging, there are warnings when taking the supplements. Alani Nu recommends to speak with a physician before using the product, and states that their product isn’t approved by the FDA.

Natural supplements are becoming increasingly popular, and a large source of this fame is social media. Celebrities are constantly endorsing supplements, like Khloé Kardashian with SugarBearHair, a company that created vitamins for hair growth, through Instagram. Recently, weight loss supplements have been heavily promoted. Celebrities who promote these supplements include Cardi B, Amber Rose, and Kylie Jenner.

The FDA tries to increase awareness of the risks in taking dietary supplements. Since supplements have a large variety of active ingredients, there is not one method to decrease risks for all dietary supplements. But the FDA does have three things to avoid: combining supplements, using them when taking other medicine, and taking too much. The most important recommendation is to speak with a doctor before taking any supplements.

In the past, there have been many incidents in which people have been hospitalized from supplement use. Green tea capsules have led to extensive liver damage, weight loss pills connected to liver failure, and excessive vitamin D to a decrease in kidney functioning.

With the large amount of positive reviews on natural supplements and advertisements plastered all over social media, there is an increasing number of people buying and taking supplements. Many users do not face dangerous health consequences, but the risks are still there. Although natural can be healthy, natural does not always mean safe.

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Audrey Xu

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