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Some natural food supplements are a health risk


Certain herbal supplements can be harmful to your health

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) warns of herbal dietary supplements made from borage, coltsfoot or waterdost. These can contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), a defense substance that plants form to protect them from predators. PA can also damage the human liver and is suspected of being carcinogenic. According to information from the BfR, pyrrolizidine alkaloids can get into the human organism through food supplements that contain PA-forming plants or parts of plants.

PA is a natural defense of plants against predators. As the BfR reports, animal experiments have already shown that these plant substances have a mutagenic and carcinogenic effect. Particular attention should be paid to ingredients from borage, coltsfoot or water-borne. "In some food supplements, the content is so high that toxic effects are possible even after short-term consumption," reports Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR in a press release.

Toxic wild herbs

The knowledge is based on the evaluation of toxicological data by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Various sources were taken into account. For example, the wild herbs can grow between crops and thus be harvested and processed. However, food supplements with components of these PA-forming wild herbs had the highest PA content.

Beware of these ingredients in nutritional supplements

The forerunner of the toxic food supplement capsules was a preparation with waterost (Eupatorium cannabinum). Other PA-forming plants that are used in nutritional preparations are:

  • Coltsfoot,
  • Comfrey,
  • Borage,
  • Lungwort,
  • Stone seeds,
  • Butterbur.

Some St. John's wort preparations are also affected

According to the BfR, products tested with St. John's wort were also contaminated with pyrrolizidine alkaloids, although St. John's wort is not known to be a PA agent. The BfR assumes that the harmful ingredients have been contaminated with other wild herbs.

More than half of the samples were contaminated

Of all the preparations examined, pyrrolizidine alkaloids were found in more than half. However, the amounts were different. If the PA content in the preparations is high, the BfR warns that the PA intake is significantly higher than the amount consumed through normal consumption. A toxic effect cannot be excluded here.

Federal institute advises against taking

With regard to possible health risks, the BfR recommends not taking food supplements that contain plants or parts of plants containing PA. Instead, oil-based extracts from PA-forming plants can be used, since no PAs were found in them.

Dietary supplements in the crosshairs

In general, the BfR recommends consumers to pay attention to variety and variety in the choice of food, instead of using supplementary products. Almost one in three people take nutritional supplements, although recent studies have repeatedly shown that many vitamin supplements have no health benefits. (vb)

Author and source information


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