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Food supplements can cause undesirable health effects

Food supplements are regulated as food under EU law. They are offered in large numbers in supermarkets, drugstores or online and are freely available for sale. This contributes to the fact that many consumers perceive them as largely harmless, health-promoting preparations. However, food supplements can also have undesirable effects on health.

Depending on the ingredients and their dosage, interactions with certain medicines cannot be ruled out. For example, an influence on the bioavailability and thus a strengthening or weakening of the effect of drugs is possible. This is known from vitamin K, which can weaken the effect of certain anticoagulant drugs, or from the plant ingredient quercetin, which is added to food supplements with the aim of strengthening the immune system. Another example of adverse effects is synephrine - a component of citrus fruits that is promoted as a slimming agent and often used in combination with caffeine and other stimulants in food supplements. As clinical studies have shown, synephrine can lead to an increase in blood pressure as well as heart rate after just one intake. Serious effects such as cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, ventricular fibrillation and hypertension have also been reported. Especially people who are taking medication should therefore only take food supplements after consulting their doctor.

Another undesirable effect concerns the seemingly harmless B vitamin biotin: the additional intake via supplements can falsify the results of certain laboratory tests, such as those used to diagnose a heart attack or in thyroid examinations. Since this has become known, the product information of biotin-containing medicinal products must contain a corresponding note. In the BfR's view, such a note should also appear on food supplements containing biotin.



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