SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 28, 2013

Supplement-choice rages on

Medical study

Dietary supplements can harm liver


MICHAEL STRAVATO THE NEW YORK TIMES    Christopher Herrera, who lives with his mother, Lourdes Gonzalez, in Katy, Texas, nearly lost his liver after using a concentrated green-tea extract that he had bought as a “fat-burning” supplement.

When Christopher Herrera walked into the emergency room at Texas Children’s Hospital one morning last year,the 17-year-old’s chest, face and eyes were bright yellow — “almost highlighter yellow,” recalled Dr. Shreena S.Patel, the pediatric resident who treated him.

  • Christopher, a high-school student from Katy, Texas, suffered severe liver damage after using a concentrated green-tea extract that he had bought at a nutrition store as a “fat burning” supplement. The damage was so extensive that he was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

“It was terrifying,” he said in an interview. “They kept telling me they had the best surgeons, and they were trying to comfort me. But they were saying that I needed a new liver and that my body could reject it.”

New data suggests that his is not an isolated case. Dietary supplements account for nearly 20 percent of drug-related liver injuries that turn up in hospitals, up from 7 percent a decade ago, according to an analysis by a national network of liver specialists.

Although many patients recover once they stop taking the supplements and receive treatment, a few require liver transplants or die because of liver failure. Many users of dietary supplements are middle-aged women who turn to those that promise to burn fat or speed up weight loss.

“It’s really the Wild West,” said Dr. Herbert L. Bonkovsky, the director of the liver, digestive and metabolic disorders laboratory at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. “When people buy these dietary supplements, it’s anybody’s guess as to what they’re getting.”

  • Although doctors were able to save Christopher’s liver, the teen no longer can play sports, spend much time outdoors or exert himself, lest he strain the organ. He must see a doctor monthly for an assessment of his liver function.

Americans spend an estimated $32 billion on dietary supplements every year, attracted by unproven claims that pills and powders will help them lose weight, build muscle and fight off everything from colds to chronic illnesses. About half of Americans use dietary supplements, and most of them take more than one at a time.

Dr. Victor Navarro, the chairman of the hepatology division at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, said that although liver injuries linked to supplements are alarming, he believes that a majority of supplements generally are safe. Most of the liver injuries tracked by a network of medical officials are caused by prescription drugs used to treat serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, he said.

But the supplement business is largely unregulated. In recent years, critics of the industry have called for measures that would force companies to prove that their products are safe, genuine and made in accordance with strict manufacturing standards before they reach the market.

But a federal law enacted in 1994 prevents the Food and Drug Administration from approving or evaluating most supplements before they are sold. Usually the agency must wait until consumers are harmed before officials can remove products from stores.

The new research found that many of the products implicated in liver injuries were either body-building supplements spiked with unlisted steroids, or herbal pills and powders promising to increase energy and help consumers lose weight.

The FDA estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following basic quality-control standards that would help prevent adulteration of their products.

(My Comment:

All about the $

Once again, had not this article been about that $32  Billion said to being spent by Americans on Supplements, this story might not have found any space on even the last page of any newspaper.  For our leaders who govern this country give little more than lip service to the plight of the down-trodden or needy among us.   The accompanying picture reveals a modest environment, indeed, with people not eating high on the hog.  I daresay Mrs Herrera would rather be running around in a svelte body, working, out dancing and enjoying her life rather than sitting confined to that chair.  Let us not be re-directed to other than the issue here.  This is not about the difficult plight of the Herrera family and the fates that befell them;  no, this is far and away about how our government and the medical establishment has failed them as it has millions of others in similar circumstances whether they live in plush surroundings or difficult,  limited quarters. 

One would hope that my readers do not equate me with the likes of Mitt Romney in the sense of lack of perspective and/or caring, for I, like the Herrera’s, have very little space between me and the bottom.  But reality has a different meaning than it does for someone with uncountable wealth. One can be said to be — more in touch with it. 

What it’s NOT about

First, It would be good to clear a few things off the table before I tell you what I really think.  In each case above,  the injuries are alluded to.  They are in the ‘nebulous’ arena which needs no proving — only allusions.  The alleged ‘many injuries to the liver’ won’t cut it — only a documented incidence has any relevance and I truly think almost everyone knows that. (Dr Andrew Saul made a point of that in his many lectures.  In over 30 years, no one has ever come forth with “any” documentation.  Gotta mean something.) 

It is so easy to cast aspersions, to try to put the “other guy” in a poor light in effort to win the point one is trying to make.  Since one has nothing to brag about himself — try to hurt the other.  Too few realize before their last breath, that we are all in this thing together.  But maybe that is one of those funny things one either gets or doesn’t!  Notice the last comment of the article?  That’s what I mean  and would you agree– that just didn’t have to be said. We aren’t all dummies;  their sales would drop and they’d be out of business.  Far more relevant is Dr Victor Navarro’s entire comment, for it is anchored in truth.

Goliath beating up on David

Documented pharmaceutical drug injuries are far and away one of the biggest contributors to the death syndrome than most diseases and accidents. And you know what?   They are supposed to be proving that their product IS SAFE, and look what happens.  Similar stuff goes wrong in surgery;  sponges, rags, tools — all left inside the body without removing before closing.  How’s that grab ya?   Or removing the wrong hand or leg?  Stuff happens, go figure. But enough trying to see whose is bigger.   

At least there is reason now to suggest that there is space enough for all of us and can’t we just try to get along?  Many people know someone who had this experience. . . .  or family who went through . . .  or begged for help and it was denied. . . . or went to 14 doctors and no-one could figure it out. . . . there’s a million of them — believe me, have some of my own! 

So how logical is it to find people going after non-lethal methods, said to be natural or organic that can or could do this, that or the other — why not?   One would hope that buyers would beware:  due their due diligence, read labels, become acquainted with the essentials and become able to distinguish the really competent sources over some Johnny-come-lately trying to sell what you want to hear, no matter what it is.  Some of us learn hard, others grasp things quickly.  These are just some of the differences.  But first and very important to me and MILLIONS of others, that old right to choose thing.

My beef with Medicine

So,  my main thrust here, and I did have one;  medicine has let the struggling masses down.  When people have pain and stuff goes wrong they want to see their doctor, but look what happens.   They become perpetual patients filling  and refilling their prescriptions.  That’s not what medicine is supposed to be about.  It is supposed to be about either keeping your health or attaining it when you’ve lost it. 

Christopher Herrera would never have bought that Green Tea extract stuff whatever it was, if his doctor or any doctor cared a whit about him as a human being – suffering!  If the doctor knew anything at all about HEALTH, Chris wouldn’t have needed it because his doc would have had him on the right track.   But he didn’t and most don’t.  So this as in so many other situations, our medical complex is failing us big time.   

The Liver

Same with that Liver thing.  Our Livers are one of the most magical of all of Nature’s creations – the magical chemical factory with a job so huge it is almost incalculable.  What it needed at the point of being seen by a medic is to be relieved of its burden which was obviously overburdening it’s resources. It did not need more of anything toxic, but to be purged — say with coffee enemas every 2 to 4 hours around the clock for only a few days and then lessened in repetition.  One must always relieve the toxic load first, can’t just start with meds — especially pharmaceuticals!  Much fluids in the form of pure water and organic green juices.  

Don’t think anyone explains it better than Dr Max Gerson in his book A CANCER THERAPY  (6th edition 2002).  Had this been, done for Christopher, there is no reason to believe he would have had anything other than a normal life when this was over. 

There is just not any way that supplements would injure his liver to the point of almost no return, tho of course, I can’t know what actually was in the product described herein.  Nor can I perceive what measures were taken in this case, but it wouldn’t stretch credulity too far to imagine that BIG PhRMA  was used on his liver, thereby adding to it’s burden while trying to save it.

That they say he must live the rest of his life as a “Patient” is a sad thing to me.     Jan)


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