Energy-boosting supplements may be deadly, study finds

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Energy-boosting supplements may be deadly: ‘The 12 most popular’ brands contain ingredients linked to heart problems, adrenal failure and depression

  • Out of the 12 supplements, all contain thyroid hormones and seven have steroid
  • Excessive thyroid hormone intake is linked to bone damage and agitation
  • Too many steroid hormones can cause the adrenal glands to shut down
  • None of the supplements list thyroid or steroid hormones on their labels
  • Most supplements are bought based on their labels and promotional materials  
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Energy-boosting supplements may be deadly, new research suggests.  

‘The 12 most popular dietary supplements’ for improved energy all contain thyroid hormones, while seven have at least one steroid hormone, a study found.

Excessive thyroid hormone intake can lead to fatal heart problems, as well as bone damage, excessive weight loss, tremors and agitation, according to study author Dr Halis Kaan Akturk, from the University of Colorado.

Steroid hormones can cause the adrenal glands to shut down, which can be life-threatening, as well as leading to depression, acne and hair loss, Dr Akturk added.

None of the supplements, which were not named in the study, list thyroid or steroid hormones on their labels, the research adds.

According to the researchers, most supplements are bought without a doctor’s recommendation, with people relying on product labeling or promotions to decide which to take.

Dr Akturk said: Patients should be aware that any supplement that is sold as “natural”, “organic”, “herbal”, “plant-based”, may not be safe. These words give patients a false reassurance.’

Energy-boosting supplements may be deadly, new research suggests (stock)


Following a ‘fashionable’ fast for just one week can damage the heart, research suggested in February 2018.

Obese people who suddenly lower their calorie intake to just 600-to-800 units a day, experience heart-fat level increases of 44 per cent, a trial found today.

Despite such dieters on average losing six per cent of their total body fat after just seven days, this fat is released into their bloodstream and absorbed by their hearts, the researchers explained.

Although this excess heart fat balances out by week eight of dieting, for people with heart problems, it could leave them breathless and with an irregular beat, the scientists add.

Study author Dr Jennifer Rayner from the University of Oxford, said: ‘Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stages.

‘But caution is needed in people with heart disease.’

Heart disease, which is linked to obesity, affects more than 1.6 million men and one million women in the UK.

Dr Rayner added:’The heart muscle prefers to choose between fat or sugar as fuel and being swamped by fat worsens its function. 

‘People with a cardiac problem could well experience more symptoms at this early time point, so the diet should be supervised.

‘Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stage.’ 

The researchers analysed 21 obese volunteers with an average age of 52 and a BMI of 37kg/metre squared.

The study’s participants ate a very low-calorie diet every day for eight weeks.

MRI scans were taken at the start and end of the investigation, as well as after week one. 

Low energy is better treated with lifestyle changes

Result further suggest every supplement analysed contains a small amount of a thyroid hormone known as triiodothyronine.

Seven of the tablets contain at least one steroid hormone, with pregnenolone being in five.

It is unclear what dose of these hormones, or how frequently they are taken, may cause side effects, according to Dr Pieter Cohen, from Harvard University, who was not involved in the study.

He added, however: ‘There is no question that if you take too much hormones they can have serious adverse effects.

‘My recommendation is to stick to the vitamin and mineral supplements that a physician recommends 

‘If someone is feeling generally fatigued or low energy but doesn’t yet feel the need to see a physician, I would recommend trying to eat healthier, get additional exercise and get some extra sleep as the next best step rather than looking for a solution in a bottle of supplements.’ 

How the research was carried out  

The researchers analysed 12 supplements that claim to boost energy, improve metabolism and provide ‘adrenal support’.

The supplements were bought from a ‘very well-known online shopping website’. 

Eight of the supplements were capsules, three were tablets and one was a liquid.  

The adrenal gland produces hormones, such as cortisol, that regulates metabolism and manages stress, as well as aldosterone, which controls blood pressure. 

The findings were published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 

Supplement boosts memory, speech and strength in stroke survivors   

This comes after research released last December suggested an over-the-counter supplement found on the High Street boosts memory, muscle strength and speech in stroke survivors.

The herbal supplement ginkgo biloba, which is thought to relieve depression and headaches, prevents cell death in the brain by improving its blood flow, previous studies suggest.

When taken with aspirin, which prevents further clots by thinning the blood, ginkgo biloba also improves stroke sufferers’ attention, reflexes and language skills in as little as 12 weeks, the new research adds.

Ginkgo biloba also causes few side effects, the study found. 

Study author Dr Yun Xu, from Nanjing University in China, said: ‘In the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA, Ginkgo biloba extract is a commercially available food supplement available without prescription.

‘The study demonstrated patients with stroke who received ginkgo biloba extract manifested better memory function, executive functions, neurological function and daily life.’ 

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