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How non-prescription food additives led to liver failure and nearly killed an American


Source: Air force

The story of an American who had to transplant the liver and actually save lives after taking the extract of green tea in capsules, again forced to talk about dietary supplements.

Photo: iStock

When 50-year-old Jim McKents started taking capsules with green tea, he hoped that antioxidants would help him avoid a heart attack and lead an active lifestyle until he was old. Every day he walked (or ran) for several kilometers, tried to lose weight and eat balanced, says Air force.

“I was prepared that these capsules would be useless and I would have to waste money. I agreed to such a risk. But I never expected my liver to fail, ”McKents says.

On the day of his son's high school graduation, he felt unwell. “You're all yellow,” his wife said to Jim, and they urgently went to the hospital.

For several days, doctors performed tests and could not make a diagnosis. Finally, MacKents was told that only a liver transplant would save him. Without a transplant, he would not have lived a week - the liver completely refused.

By miraculous coincidence, a donor organ suitable for transplantation was found in one day. Now, four years after the operation, Mackents is experiencing constant abdominal pain, is under constant medical treatment and has difficulty walking.

He sued Vitacost, a capsule maker. They are sold over the counter. Since the additive is made from tea, in the United States it is considered a food product, not a medicine, it does not pass certification and testing.

“There are no warnings about possible risks and side effects in the instructions,” says McKents.

Experts call the case of Makkents extremely unusual.

However, in the world every year I fix about 80 cases of liver disease in people taking granular green tea: for example, liver and kidney failure occurred in 17-year-old resident of the Canadian province of Ontario Madeleine Papino.

Perhaps the danger lies in the potentially toxic ingredient in green tea EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate). This catechin (a substance with antioxidant properties) is abundantly contained in the drink, and its concentration in granules is increased hundreds of times.

“If you just drink reasonable amounts of green tea, you’re not in danger,” Herberg Bonkowski, professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, told the BBC. He has been studying the effects of green tea supplements on the liver for nearly 20 years.

“Those who take highly concentrated extracts are at risk. Usually they are drunk by those who want to lose weight, and often they almost do not eat solid food during this period. We know from animal studies that the body of a hungry, emaciated animal assimilates far more catechins than the body of more well-fed individuals. Another risk factor could be the concurrent use of other drugs or alcohol with epigallocatechin-3-gallate, ”says the professor.

So are supplements harmful?

Supplements approved by regulators, purchased from reliable manufacturers, are almost always safe and are completed with instructions for use, doctors say. However, as Dr. Wayne Carter of the University of Nottingham notes, it cannot be argued that nutritional supplements cannot be potentially harmful.

For example, if you take an increased dose of such a drug, then a health risk may arise. Although in many cases, excess substances will be eliminated from the body, which can become a threat to the liver, which cleans the substances we consume from toxins.

“It seems to me that sometimes people think like this:“ This is good for me, so if I take a large dose, I will feel even better. ” However, there is a risk here, ”says Dr. Carter.

The simultaneous administration of many food additives at once can also be dangerous, the expert warns. Sometimes they interact with each other: one drug can enhance the effect of another. In other cases, they may contain one or more of the same nutrients, which leads to an overdose.

Some of us find it harder to efficiently process certain substances, and their effect on the organism also depends on this.

“The thing about these drugs is that they're safe for most people, but not everyone,” adds Carter.

However, if these are potential risks, what are the health benefits?

On the subject: Why Americans' passion for vitamins does more harm than good

Vitamins are required and optional

Some dietary supplements recognize most experts as universally useful.

As a rule, public health authorities in developed countries recommend that women who wish to become pregnant take folic acid (also called Vitamin B9). This recommendation is also valid for pregnant women up to 12 weeks to prevent a number of congenital diseases in the child.

There are two more vitamins that official medicine strongly recommends: D and K.

Vitamin D intake is also recommended for infants, children aged one to four years, and people who lack sunlight. This applies to those who often experience weakness or do not leave the house, as well as those who constantly wear closed clothing.

In general, the intake of vitamin D is recommended for almost anyone.

“A hundred years ago, most of the children in the capital were sick with rickets. However, the situation improved after the children were given vitamin supplements, ”says Jamin Jacobs of the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital.

Healthy nutrition and supplements

Dr. Jacobs notes that dietary supplements are recommended for dieters and allergy sufferers. For example, vegans are advised to use vitamin B12, which in its natural form is found only in animal products.

As for many other supplements, their universal utility is less obvious.

For example, experts say that most people do not need vitamin supplements, since all the necessary vitamins and minerals, except vitamin D, are already in food if a person eats a balanced diet.

The benefits of fish oil capsules, which are often taken to improve the performance of the heart or brain, are also not so obvious. So, scientists have concluded that the statement about the benefits of such capsules for the heart is largely erroneous.

According to Sam Jennings, head of consulting firm Berry Ottaway & Associates Ltd, nutrition is an ever-evolving science with new data emerging.

“Obviously, nutritional supplements cannot be equally beneficial to all people, as it depends on the characteristics of each person, as well as whether the person will benefit from any additional nutrient,” she says.

Dr. Carter advises to examine the findings of scientists regarding a particular supplement, before taking it, and also to get acquainted with contraindications.

How to choose nutritional supplements

  1. Buy supplements from trusted suppliers - drugs must pass quality control
  2. Check whether clinical trials have been conducted on the people for whom they are intended
  3. Examine contraindications - for example, people with heart disease should pay attention to the effect of the drug on the work of this organ.
  4. Be careful when taking multiple drugs at the same time.
  5. Stick to recommended doses.

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