Living Healthy: Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Your Supplements

Do you try your best to live healthy and regularly shop for vitamins and supplements? Here are some harmful ingredients to avoid at all costs.

Using nutritional supplements can help you lose weight, gain muscle, enhance your immune system, and generally create a happy, healthier you.

It is very difficult to get all the micro and macronutrients you need from food alone, which is why over half of Americans are taking supplements.

BUT not all supplements are created equal and some of them contain harmful ingredients that will actually have a negative effect on your health.

If you want to know if your current supplement has the right ingredients or want to know which ingredients to avoid when purchasing a new supplement, look no further.

Here is a guide on which ingredients to avoid when taking supplements.

The Controversy of Supplements

The overall economic impact of the supplement industry in the United States is over $122 billion.

With a growing interest and prioritization of our health Americans want to be sure they are doing everything they can to optimize their health.

Who Can Blame Them?

Supplements provide essential and non-essential nutrients that we are sometimes unable to get from our diet especially if you have dietary restrictions or allergies.

To fill in the gaps of our diet we use supplements in the form of pills, drinks, or powders and for the most part, this is a safe and effective way to achieve the macronutrients and micronutrient levels needed for your age, weight, and health goal.

So, What’s The Issue?

As the supplement industry has grown, more products have been added to the market that are not as safe and effective as they advertise.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is not required to review the safety and efficacy of nutritional supplements like they are with other traditional medications. Therefore, there is a risk that some of the ingredients in supplements can be harmful.

Using supplements incorrectly or using supplements with certain ingredients can increase your risk of liver and other organ damage, reduced bone strength, and even birth defects.

The bottom line – it is important to know what is in your supplements and what to avoid.

Ingredients to Avoid

The best advice I can give when shopping for supplements is to always check the label.

Keep a lookout for the ingredients below and avoid purchasing supplements with those ingredients. You may also want to consult your doctor before starting a new supplement because it may interact with other medications that you are currently taking.

1. Caffeine Powder

I love caffeine. So, caffeine powder seems like a great idea for a supplement to a cup or two of coffee. However, caffeine powder, also referred to on labels as trimethylxanthine, can cause seizures, cardiac arrest, and even death.


DMAA, also known as dimethylamylamine, is marketed as a supplement to help with weight loss and symptoms of ADHD. However, there is research to show but it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

3. Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot goes by a few other names on labels, so watch out for all of them – Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfara. This ingredient is advertised to improve cold symptoms like cough and sore throat, as well as laryngitis, bronchitis, and asthma but has been shown to cause liver damage.

4. Bismuth Nitrate

Bismuth nitrate is a salt that is used to prevent kidney damage caused by cancer treatment. The issue with this ingredient is that there is no evidence whether or not it is safe to ingest. Without evidence of efficacy and/or safety, you should not take a supplement.

5. Green Tea Extract Powder

The name of this ingredient might remind you of the advertised benefits of green tea including weight loss, but the truth is that green tea extract powder can actually cause symptoms like dizziness, ringing in the ears, and reduced absorption of iron. It can also make certain health conditions worse, like anemia and glaucoma.

6. Kava

Kava, also known as ava pepper, kava kava, or piper methysticum is advertised for use to reduce anxiety and symptoms of insomnia but can cause liver damage and impair your ability to drive. It can also make the symptoms of Parkinson’s and depression.

7. Hordenine

Hordenine may be unsafe when taken in a pill form. It is marketed as a way to improve athletic performance and weight loss but it may cause a rise in heart rate and blood pressure.

8. Pennyroyal Oil

Pennyroyal oil is derived from a plant in the mint family. It is an ingredient in supplements that claim to alleviate breathing problems and digestive disorders but can also cause liver and kidney failure as well as nerve damage.

9. Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is advertised as a natural remedy for high cholesterol but also may cause kidney and muscle problems, liver issues, and even hair loss. Red yeast rice can also have a poor reaction with statin drugs which are meant to lower cholesterol.

Starting a New Supplement

This list may seem overwhelming, but there are still plenty of safe and effective supplements that you can use to enhance your diet.

If you want more information on nutritional supplements and their safety, check out the website for the Office of Dietary Supplements.

You can also contact your doctor if you have questions about supplements and their interaction with medications you may already be taking.

Be a Good Supplement Consumer

Remember to read labels, do research, and be aware of ingredients to avoid, like the ones mentioned above.

If you have a chronic condition, allergies, or are pregnant you need to be even more careful about which supplements you take.

Supplements can be a very good way to enhance your diet if you choose safe and effective supplements and take them properly.

So be a good consumer and check labels before purchasing a new supplement!

If you want to read more about health and style tips, check out our other blogs!

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