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Video: The 12 most dangerous supplements

  1. Transcript of: The 12 most dangerous supplements

    MATT LAUER, co-host: This morning on TODAY'S CONSUMER , a warning about popular dietary supplements . More than half of all adults in the US take them. Well, now Consumer Reports is out with its dirty dozen list, 12 ingredients they recommend avoiding. Nancy Metcalf is the magazine's senior program editor. Dr. Nancy Snyderman is NBC 's chief medical editor. Nancys , good morning to both of you.

    Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN reporting: Hi, Matt.

    LAUER: What struck me most when I read the list last night -- and I 'll read it again in a second -- I haven't heard of most of these things. Is that one of the problems?

    Ms. NANCY METCALF (Senior Program Editor, Consumer Reports): Well, it is for the ones that are not well-known because one problem is if you go on the Internet to research them, you're probably not going to come across too many cautionary stories.

    LAUER: Let's read the list here, OK. These are the -- this is the dirty dozen : aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver , coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia and yohimbe. What jumps out of the list for you, Nancy ?

    SNYDERMAN: Well, I think the biggest thing is you really haven't heard of many of them, and that's the concern because a lot of times people just look at the promises. Takes away your sniffles, causes more muscles, makes you feel better. And unless you read the nuanced ingredients, you might not run upon these. And to rely on your doctor and your pharmacist for everything may also be a little bit of a pitfall because a lot of times physicians don't know enough about this.

    LAUER: Are we saying there are side effects from some of these? They're dangerous? And are they in products and supplements at a great enough level to really pose a threat?

    Ms. METCALF: The answer is yes to all of those. These are side effects that are known from case reports or clinical studies, and they're serious ones, liver failure, kidney failure, heart attacks, heart arrhythmias, strokes. Yeah.

    SNYDERMAN: And I think the real concern is, Matt , they've never been proved to be beneficial, but they may be harmful, and that's where the concern is.

    LAUER: Remember Paul Karason ? We had him on this show a couple of times.

    SNYDERMAN: Absolutely. He turned blue.

    LAUER: We call him the blue man. Take a look at his skin.

    SNYDERMAN: Yeah.

    LAUER: He was a guy who for years who had been taking colloidal silver . Although, Nancy , don't we -- didn't I -- don't I recall that he had a pretty clean bill of health?

    SNYDERMAN: Yeah, he had a good checkup.

    LAUER: From a checkup?

    SNYDERMAN: He did. I thought he was going to have liver problems. He had good checkup except for really turning blue.

    LAUER: All right, we reached out to a trade organization, the Council for Responsible Nutrition , for their take. Here's their statement: "The dietary supplement industry has fought for stronger enforcement of regulation to further ensure consumer safety . More than 150 million Americans take vitamins and other supplements each year for the health benefits they provide, and overall the supplement category has a very strong safety profile. We recommend that consumers follow label directions, buy products from reputable companies, and talk with their doctor or other health care professionals about the supplements they take."

    SNYDERMAN: Well, it's true. Most people take vitamins and no problems, but this field really hasn't been fighting for more legislation. The bar is significantly lower for oversight, and that is a congressional issue, that Congress -enacted legislation that, frankly, allows the supplement world to operate at a lower bar than the pharmaceutical world. So it's not, I would say, a precise -- a very accurate description.

    LAUER: And, Nancy , if someone's waking up this morning and they're looking at that container of the supplement they're taking and they find one of the dirty dozen in the list of ingredients, what do you suggest they do?

    Ms. METCALF: Stop taking it.

    SNYDERMAN: Yeah.

    LAUER: Right off the bat?

    Ms. METCALF: Yes.

    LAUER: Yeah.


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