MJA Insight: Wakeup call on risks of diet supplements

28 Jan 2016

A case report recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia and featured in MJA Insight this week highlights the possible role of herbal and dietary supplements in cases of hepatoxicity. It is something that GPs, and other clinicians, should be aware of.

Lead author of the Diet supplements threat to liver article, Dr Rosemary Smith, noted that the case of a young man with no obvious reasons for a severe liver injury highlighted the importance of thorough questioning of patients as to what herbal and non-prescribed substances they may be taking.

Associate Professor Simone Strasser, a Gastroenterological Society of Australia spokesperson, said that here and overseas we’re increasingly seeing people purchase weight-loss and body building supplements online that are causing severe liver injury. Reactions to these products are idiosyncratic, she also said, which makes it difficult to know the particular elements that are responsible.

US researchers in 2014 reported that severe liver injury attributable to health and dietary supplements had increased from 7% to 20% over the previous decade.