Consumers Union warns of dangerous dietary supplements

Every year 150 million Americans buy dietary supplements for a variety of presumed health benefits. Now the Consumers Union advocacy group says there are 12 supplements that should never be taken.

These are supplements that can cause severe kidney and liver damage, heart problems cancer and even death." said Consumers Union spokesperson Charles Bell.

There are about 30,000 supplements on the market. Annette Dickinson with the Council for Responsible Nutrition says the majority are safe. "Many of the products that consumer reports article mentions are actually products which only a miniscule fraction of the industry makes and which are used only by very small numbers of consumers."

Unlike prescription drugs, dietary supplements are regulated like food instead of drugs. They can be sold until the Food and Drug Administration proves they are dangerous. The industry says the new report shows the FDA's oversight works.

"Aristolochia, comfrey and chaparral are three products that are mentioned in the Consumer Reports list and FDA has already instituted regulatory action and the industry has withdrawn those products from the market." said Dickinson.

Consumers Union says just because these products are natural doesn't mean they're safe. "If you think about it there are many natural substances like arsenic and poisonous mushroom that are not safe." said Bell.

Until more studies have been done experts recommend buying from companies and stores you trust, read the warnings and always tell your doctor what you're taking.