weight-loss supplements, dietary supplements, weight loss, Bon Secours Weight Loss InstituteMany people consider dietary supplements to lose weight to be safe. After all, you can buy them without a prescription so they must be OK, right?

Unfortunately, some of the ingredients in weight-loss dietary supplements can harm your health if you’re taking certain medications for a range of medical problems – from depression and diabetes to cancer.

Take the ingredients glucomannan and guar gum. Both can affect how well your body absorbs any medication you might take orally. If you take medication for diabetes, you should avoid glucomannan because it can lower your blood glucose levels, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

Green tea, which many people drink to lose weight, can interact with chemotherapy drugs.

Another popular ingredient, garcinia cambogia, was associated with serotonin toxicity in a patient who was also taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications.

If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to talk to your doctor before trying a weight-loss supplement. Weight-loss products marketed as dietary supplements are sometimes tainted with prescription-drug ingredients, controlled substances and ingredients that have not been properly tested or studied.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has recalled more than 60 weight-loss dietary supplements for safety concerns. Many of these supplements contained a hidden drug ingredient – sibutramine – a weight-loss medication taken off the U.S. market in 2010 due to safety concerns.

To help people understand the risks of weight-loss dietary supplements, the NIH has posted a fact sheet for consumers to consult.

“Americans spend over $2 billion a year on dietary supplements promoted for weight loss, but there’s little evidence they actually work,” said Anne L. Thurn, Ph.D., director of the ODS Communications Program in a news release. “And people may not know that many manufacturers of weight-loss supplements don’t conduct studies in humans to find out whether their product works and is safe.”

The fact sheet posted by the NIH covers 24 ingredients found in weight-loss products, including African mango, beta-glucans, chromium, garcinia, green tea, hoodia, and raspberry ketones. Chromium, for example, might help you lose a very small amount of weight and body fat, and is safe, but raspberry ketones haven’t been studied enough to know whether they’re safe or effective. And while drinking green tea can be safe, taking green-tea extract pills has been linked to liver damage in some people, the news release states.

“We encourage people to talk with their healthcare providers to get advice about dietary supplements and to visit the ODS website to learn valuable information about these products,” Coates said.

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