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The #1 Worst Supplements for Your Health

These supplements have hidden dangers, experts warn

Millions of Americans take supplements on a regular basis to stay healthy, boost their immune system, help fight off illness or to lose weight. But you could be taking something that's dangerous for your health. There's a lot of hype around the billion dollar industry and while some products do give added health benefits, many pose a risk. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to experts who reveal 9 supplements to avoid and explain why they're bad for your health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Diet Supplements

Woman holding packs of pills and measuring tape in hands.

Many people turn to diet supplements to help shed weight, but Joseph Kennedy with Consumer Health Report doesn't recommend doing so. "Working first hand in consumer safety, I have witnessed many unsafe weight loss supplements. Many will contain harmful ingredients that cause adverse functions in the body such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, diarrhea, renal and liver issues.  Many of the ingredients have actually been banned by the FDA due to the adverse effects they cause and potential health risk. Even taking them as recommended can leave you feeling pretty bad. Many users who take these supplements will take more than recommended in an attempt to lose weight fast, but ultimately experience very adverse side effects due to ingesting high amounts of stimulants such as caffeine and other digestive distressing compounds that are usually acidic and cause long-term stomach issues. Many supplement companies that manufacture these products overlook that obesity is commonly caused by other underlying health conditions that only become worse with interaction with stimulants and other harmful ingredients."



ginkgo biloba capsule

DeSoto says, "Ginkgo is used as a natural remedy to treat anxiety and dementia and has been associated with improved memory function. However, it may increase the risk of bleeding so should not be used in those with bleeding disorders. In large amounts it can also cause seizures. Its use remains controversial in pregnancy as it might cause preterm labor." 

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kava kava supplement capsules on brown wooden plate
Shutterstock / Iryna Imago

Everyone wants to feel relaxed and not stressed out, but Kava is not the answer, explains DeSoto. "Many people find stress relief with the addition of Kava supplements in their diet. However, the safety of this beverage continues to be questioned. It may have severe side effects including irreversible liver damage in previously healthy individuals. Some countries have banned the supplement or limited the sale of it."

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Close up of Ribes malvaceum (Chaparral Currant),

DeSoto says, "Despite warnings from the FDA against using chaparral, many use it to treat digestive problems, skin disorders, and arthritis. Not only is there a lack of scientific evidence to support its use, it has been linked with kidney and liver failure."

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"This is a plant used for centuries to treat respiratory problems and sore throat," DeSoto states. "It contains chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have been linked to Liver damage, lung damage and cancer." 

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Vitamin D Can Be Great—but Don't Take Too Much

vitamin d in the sun

We can get a sufficient amount of vitamin D from sunlight and food, so Lisa Richards a nutritionist and creator of the Candida Diet warns, there's "a risk for those who are taking it without the direction of a healthcare provider. It is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it can reach toxic levels in the body. A deficiency in this vitamin is commonly found among those with hypothyroidism. It is thought that it is both causal and symptomatic of this condition." 

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Ashwagandha is an herb used for reduced swelling and lowering blood pressure, but according to Richards, it can pose harmful risks. "Those taking thyroid medications, birth control, and some blood pressure medications may have poor reactions if taking ashwagandha simultaneously. This is a supplement you'll want to avoid if you're taking thyroid medications. An interaction can occur that lessens the effect of these medications to a dangerous degree."

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Energy Supplements

energy supplements

Kennedy says, "Energy supplements hold the number two place for the supplement associated with the most hospital visits. Most will contain excessive amounts of caffeine or paired with other stimulants that mimic the effects of caffeine, many are very strong and even share similar effects as amphetamines. If the wrong person takes these supplements the consequences could be potentially fatal. Common reactions from energy supplements can range between headaches to cardiovascular failure and seizures."


Soy Protein Products

soy protein isolate

According to Lindsey DeSoto RDN, LD with The Dietitian Momma, "Some soy products contain estrogen-like chemicals that can cause adverse effects if taken frequently. For example, using soy isolate supplements for long periods of time may cause abnormal tissue growth in the uterus. It's okay to eat whole soy products, but avoid long term use of soy isoflavone supplements commonly found in protein powders." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather