Harvard Women's Health Watch

What’s in that supplement? Sometimes more than you bargain for

Research we’re watching

Do you know someone who is using a supplement for weight loss, muscle building, or sexual enhancement? You might want to recommend a dose of caution. An analysis published on October 12 by JAMA Network Open found that many of these supplements contain unapproved and potentially dangerous pharmaceutical ingredients. From 2007 to 2016, FDA reviewers detected contaminants in 776 dietary supplements, produced by 146 different companies. Contaminants included sildenafil, which is the generic form of the drug Viagra; sibutramine (Meridia), a weight-loss drug taken off the market in the United States in 2010; and anabolic steroids or steroid-like substances. And 20% of products contained more than one unapproved ingredient.

These supplements could prove harmful for those who take them because their ingredients may interact with other medications or cause problems for people with underlying health conditions.

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