Yes, Dr. Mercola, dietary supplements can be deadly. Take yohimbe, for example. As early as 1994, De Smet and Smeets found potential risks associated with health food products containing yohimbe extracts.
A dose of 5 mg is sufficient to produce adverse effects in patients with autonomic failure, and 10 mg can elicit manic-like symptoms in patients with bipolar depression. Furthermore, daily doses of 15 mg have been associated with bronchospasm and a lupus-like syndrome. The label of the capsules that we investigated does not provide any warning about such health risks, and off label advertising presents yohimbine merely as a peripheral vasodilator which can potentiate other agents that lower blood pressure. In reality, however, the alpha-2 adrenoreceptor antagonistic properties of the alkaloid reverse the effects of clonidine and similar antihypertensive drugs. In view of these data, we have requested the Dutch department of health to take steps against the uncontrolled availability of health food products containing yohimbe extracts, and we hope that authorities in other countries will also take action.
In 2005, Pittler et al. did a new study on yohimbe and other dietary supplements: “We assessed Ephedra sinica, Garcinia cambogia, Paullinia cupana, guar gum, Plantago psyllium, Ilex paraguariensis and Pausinystalia yohimbe.” This is what they found:
The results show that adverse events including hepatic injury and death have been reported with the use of some herbal food supplements. For herbal ephedra and ephedrine-containing food supplements an increased risk of psychiatric, autonomic or gastrointestinal adverse events and heart palpitations has been reported. In conclusion, adverse events are reported for a number of herbal food supplements, which are used for reducing body weight.
NatureClaim also has a body of evidence on the dangers of certain dietary supplements. Yohimbe has death listed as an adverse effect and also lists death as a possible result when taking the wrong dose. According to Brown (2018), heart related issues were associated with a number of herbal and dietary supplements. Yohimbe is one of them. In fact, the author concludes her research with the following statement:
The online “Toxic Table” forewarns clinicians, consumers and the dietary supplement industry by listing dietary supplements with case reports related to heart toxicity. It may also contribute to Phase IV post marketing surveillance to diminish adverse events that Government officials use to regulate dietary supplements.
The safety and efficacy of dietary supplements are not regulated in the US. Manufacturers of yohimbe who do not care about legalities or keeping consumers safe may continue to sell this product and ignore the adverse warnings or they may simply post the following on each bottle:
This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
So, yes, Dr. Mercola, there is at least one dietary supplement that has evaded regulators for many years beginning with research asking for it to be severely curtailed all the way to the present where it is still available – and still dangerous and deadly.
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 101, Subpart F, Section 101.93. Accessed April, 2019, from https://www.ecfr.gov/.
By Michael H. Brownstein