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   Feb 08

HIDDEN DANGERS Herbal supplements for sport, slimming and erectile dysfunction ‘pose serious health risk after experts find some contain illegal drugs’

MANY herbal supplements could be doing more harm than good because they contain hidden illegal drugs linked to serious health problems, experts warn.

Over the counter herbal sports supplements and treatments for obesity and erectile dysfunction may include dangerous substances not listed on the label, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast found.

Illegal drugs were found in sport supplements as well as treatments for slimming and erectile dysfunction

Professor Duncan Burns, an analytical chemist from the university, teamed up with experts from Kingston University and international science testing company LGC to test the safety of remedies that claim to be fully herbal.

Professor Burns said: “Our review looked at research from right across the globe and questioned the purity of herbal food supplements.

“We have found that these supplements are often not what customers think they are – they are being deceived into thinking they are getting health benefits from a natural product when actually they are taking a hidden drug.

“These products are unlicensed medicines and many people are consuming large quantities without knowing the interactions with other supplements or medicines they may be taking. This is very dangerous and there can be severe side effects.”

They said the survey “raises serious questions” about the safety of slimming products containing the drug Sibutramine.

Sibutramine was licensed as the medicine Reductil until 2010, when it was withdrawn across Europe and the US due to its links with heart attacks and strokes.

It also found a substance called DMAA found often undeclared in sports supplements.

Professor Burns warned athletes not to take a supplement unless it had been properly analysed

DMAA was taken off the market in the US in 2012 due to its links with elevated blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems.

Professor Burns said it was even more important that athletes know what they are taking as their careers rely on it.

He said: “We are seeing all these cases of athletes being done for drugs when they didn’t know they were taking anything – that is why they shouldn’t eat anything that hasn’t been analysed.

“If manufacturers want to have a product that is miraculous they can tweak it pharmaceutical, under the counter as you might say, and it will work better than the natural herb but it might have other reactions to medication you are taking.”

Researchers also discovered tadalfil and sulfoaildenafil were frequently undeclared ingredients in products for erectile dysfunction.

When taken with other medicines containing nitrates, these drugs can lower blood pressure drastically and cause serious health problems.

Professor Burns added: “This is a real issue as people suffering from conditions like diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension are frequently prescribed nitrate containing medicines.

“If they are also taking a herbal supplement to treat erectile dysfunction, they could become very ill.

“People who take these products will not be aware they have taken these substances and so when they visit their doctor they may not declare this and it can be difficult to determine what is causing the side effects. It is a very dangerous situation.”

He said: “All legal products in the UK should be properly labelled and have declared what is in them.

“The problem is you can go online and buy a herbal medicine you like and they will not be fully labelled.

“Most of the ones that come from reputable manufacturers will not be doctored up.”

Source: The Sun

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