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You should “really be careful with food supplements”

2024-03-28 22:31:59

Colorful pills, translucent capsules or bottles full of vitamins… Food supplements come in all forms to convince potential customers of their benefits. In health-obsessed Japan, one of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s products is making headlines. The Japanese firm’s food supplement could, in fact, be the cause of the death of four people and the hospitalization of around a hundred others.

But what is this food supplement and why could it be dangerous? Should we be wary of these products? Answers with Doctor Jacques Fricker, nutritionist at Bichat hospital in Paris and co-author of Everything about food supplements, the good and the bad.

Is this food supplement dangerous?

At the origin of this health scandal is a food supplement presented as a natural anti-cholesterol. It contains red yeast rice, also called “benji koji”. “It is likely that the poisoning here comes from a manufacturing defect, that is to say a contamination of the product with an ingredient which should not have been there and turns out to be toxic,” notes the Doctor Jacques Fricker. The Japanese group reacted on Monday, affirming that it was “possible that the raw materials used to make beni koji contain ingredients that [la] company did not intend to include.

However, red yeast rice carries risks of its own. “It is generally well supported but it carries muscular risks, like statins [prescrites pour faire baisser le cholestérol]. However, when your muscles are destroyed, they produce waste and it is too much work for the kidney which is damaged,” explains the doctor. And, as early as January 2024, Kobayashi Pharmaceutical received reports of kidney problems in some of its consumers.

Red yeast rice can also be dangerous for the liver, which explains their ban in Switzerland, For example. In France, the National Food Safety Agency (Anses) advised in 2014 Any consumer should consult their doctor before taking a product containing “beni koji”.

Should we be wary of food supplements?

On its site, the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir believes that “the greatest mistrust is required with food supplements”. Sold in pharmacies or even on the Internet, these products are much less regulated than medications and reminders, listed by Rappel Conso, are common. “You really have to be careful with food supplements. It is not because it is sold in pharmacies that it is effective or even non-toxic,” warns Doctor Jacques Fricker.

Indeed, explains the nutritionist, there are many dangerous factors with these products, from the risk of supplementing in too large a quantity to the interaction with current treatment. Sometimes the products are toxic in themselves. “On the Internet, you have to be even more careful. For example, there are slimming products that present themselves as natural, plant-based products, but actually contain amphetamines. It is effective in suppressing hunger but it is illegal and dangerous for your health,” warns Jacques Fricker. “They are not useless,” he tempers, taking the example of a woman who is anemic (lacking iron) because of heavy periods, who can take food supplements rich in iron.

Why is this a particularly current topic?

Buitoni, Kinder or even Lactalis… Health scandals are frequent. As for food supplements, they continue to become more popular. In France, small pills brought in 2.6 billion euros in 2022, according to the latest report from the National Union of Food Supplements dating from April 2023. On the side of the country of the rising sun, the obsession is even more significant, the market represented 7.27 billion euros in 2023, according to Euromonitor. Or three times more than in France.

These products, which “potentially contain active molecules”, according to Jacques Fricker, are therefore increasingly popular. However, “not everything that is natural is necessarily healthy”, recalls the doctor who evokes the difficult balance between “the force of marketing which makes you dream and the announcements of doctors and organizations”. In any case, for the doctor, “even if it means taking supplements”, it is more prudent to go through the pharmacy box because on the Internet, “everything and anything is sold”.

#careful #food #supplements

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