Dietary supplements have become highly popular throughout the world. They are used for body building, male performance enhancement, weight loss, burning fat, among many other uses. Their health and performance enhancement effects have been popularized to great lengths. Since the FDA banned the use of steroids, natural supplements have taken their place, promising the similar effects. Simply because a supplement is 100% natural does not mean it is safe. Many herbs and supplements can have powerful effects on the body, which may be positive or negative.
Many supplements have certain risks and side effects, which consumers are not aware of. To make matters worse, the manufacturers of dietary supplements are not required by law to inform users of any unwanted effects caused by a supplement. This means despite knowing of potential or even proven risks, supplements can be sold without any warning whatsoever. It is therefore up to the user to take their own precautions.
Here are some commonly used dietary supplements and their known risks and side effects.
Boosting your testosterone levels is the ultimate goal for athletes and body builders. Even a small increase in the hormone can result in greater muscle gain and higher performance levels. High testosterone levels are also associated with better make sexual performance. However, hormone boosters such as Tribulus Terrestris, DHEA, and others can lower levels of good cholesterol, making them unsafe for your heart. Furthermore, boosting testosterone levels has been linked to hair loss and breast enlargement. This is because supplements such as DHEA may be converted to DHT and estrogen in the body.
Amino acid supplements
The use of amino acids to boost muscle gain and energy is well documented. They include L-Carnitine, Glutamine, L-Argenine and Creatine monohydrate. Others are branched chain amino acids such as Leucine and Valine. Taking these supplements can have adverse side effects on your heath. While studies have shown amino acids such as creatine can benefit bodybuilders, it is best to avoid taking large quantities daily. This has been shown to increase the risk of kidney failure. Amino acids have also been linked to stomach cramps, muscle cramps, and stress injuries. Beta-alanine is also responsible for a tingling or burning sensation on the skin. Argenine on the other hand can worsen herpes virus infections, and increase incidences of cold sores. It has also been linked to heart attacks in persons with heart disease.
This stimulant is very popular with fat burning supplements. It is naturally found in coffee and other beverages. Caffeine is used to increase body temperature and in order to make the body burn more calories. It is also a powerful stimulant, which can boost energy and alertness. However, taking large amounts of caffeine is dangerous. Studies have shown caffeine can increase anxiety, irritability, nervousness, lack of sleep, and nausea. Caffeine has also been linked to an increased heart rate, tremors, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blurred vision. Long term use of caffeine can also impair adrenal function. It is therefore important to avoid taking large amounts of this supplement.
Protein is an essential ingredient for building muscle. Protein shakes which include whey, casein, egg white and soy protein are popular with athletes. However, studies have shown that eating a balanced diet with enough protein is good enough, without the need to take protein supplements. Using these supplements can therefore lead to excessive protein intake. This has been shown to increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney failure. Taking too much protein can also reduce appetite, and lead to weight gain.
Other hidden dangers in supplements
There has been little research on dietary supplements. This is because the makers of such products are not required to show any benefits of taking them. Unlike drugs, supplements are assumed to be safe unless proven otherwise. The problems with supplements are many including:
- Even for safe supplements, the quantity of ingredients on the label is always inaccurate. This means that you could be wasting a lot of money on supplements of poor quality. In other cases, the supplement may contain huge doses of certain compounds such as selenium, which can make you seriously ill.
- Supplements have been found to be contaminated with pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and prescription drugs. Analogs of prescription medications are routinely included in supplements. These are slightly altered so as to pass FDA scrutiny, but may cause serious health effects. This includes liver failure, kidney damage, heart attacks, or dependency.
How to safely use supplements
It is advisable to use supplements only if you really need them .Just like drugs, their use should be carefully monitored to avoid side effects. Firstly, make sure you are in perfect health before using any supplement. A health condition can be made worse by certain supplements. It is therefore important to check with your doctor before taking supplements.
If you are taking prescription medications, avoid taking supplements as well. Mixing the two may have negative or life threatening effects. For example the antioxidants Vitamin C and E can reduce the effects of cancer treatment, while St John’s wort increases the metabolism of birth control pills and antidepressants, making them less effective. Other supplements like Vitamin K can increase the risk of bleeding, or reduce the efficacy of anesthesia during surgery.
Secondly, buy your supplements from a trusted retail store. You should especially be careful when purchasing dietary supplements over the internet. Unscrupulous vendors use the internet to peddle dangerous or useless supplements. Thirdly, desist from using any supplement that gives you unwanted side effects. Supplements have different effects on different people, so a particular supplement may not be safe for you. Taking supplements which contain numerous ingredients may also not be good for your health. This is because little is known about the risk of interaction between supplements.
Supplements are important when used to fill a nutritional gap. Vitamin D, folic acid, and omega 3 supplements are important for boosting health when inadequate in the diet. However, it is important to do as much research on your own as possible, to ensure you know what you are taking and its potential side effects.