What most people don’t know is the negative effects that some supplements can have on our bodies when taken in conjunction with other ones or for a prolonged amount of time. Unfortunately one person learnt that the hard way.
Matthew Whitby, a Western Australian man, was told that he had two weeks to have a liver transplant before he would die. In this investigation we will look at the facts and see how something like this can happen.
Stories like this one come up all the time and it makes us question why people continue to buy products that haven’t had the proper clinical testing that they should.
Matthew Whitby had been consuming a protein powder that contained green tea extract and one with Garcinia Cambogia, both of which are popular ingredients for dietary supplements to include. The extract of green tea is a concentrated form and supposedly has anti-oxidant properties. Read more about this ingredient here in our investigation. Garcnia Cambogia is a tropical fruit which is native to Indonesia and contains Hydroxycitric acid, more of which you can read here. It has been said by doctors that the ingredients used can cause liver failure even in moderate doses and there’s been dozens of cases around the world. It is usually common with tea detoxes, which have grown increasingly popular.
The product in question is HydroxyBurn Elite, supplied by BSC, which he was taking to help him gain extra muscle strength and to get fit. After putting his life in danger by taking the supplement, Matthew had to have an emergency transplant in which he accepted a liver with hepatitis B. Regarding the matter he said:
I didn’t think something you could buy online or just over the counter did the damage that it did to me. They didn’t say anything about ‘could cause liver failure’.
The problem is that with dietary supplements they often don’t come with proper warnings like individual ingredients would, and while the ingredients aren’t illegal to use they are trying to toughen the rules and regulations for supplements. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulate supplements that make therapeutic claims and is now conducting an investigation:
The results of which will be made public if there is sufficient evidence of a safety issue to warrant further action.
While it is still safe to drink Green Tea in moderate amounts, the experts say it is probably best to stay away from the concentrated doses. Professor Gary Jeffrey, a liver specialist, works in a liver transplant centre in Western Australia and believes that there are more liver damage cases due to herbal remedies and herbal extracts. Speaking of the most recent case he said:
This would be the most severe form we’ve seen. Most of the other cases we’ve seen have resolved spontaneously…There have been a number of countries around the world that have removed slimming agents from the market because of the increased rate of liver damage.
While the product used is no longer available, it isn’t illegal to use green tea extract in supplements in Australia and while it is largely safe to take it can have adverse effects on some people, as everyone is different.
It is believed that the liver failure occurred because of the catechins known as EGCG and can often cause adverse effects such as nausea and heartburn when taken in high amounts.
Professor Jeffrey went on to say:
The exact mechanism of the green tea extracts on the liver isn’t actually known but it can cause, at its worst, liver death.
A clinical pharmacologist called Professor Ric Day from St. Vincent’s Hospital had this to say about the subject:
It is very rare and it seems like some individuals have a particular sensitivity. So it’s a lot of bad luck generally but the protection is to make sure you’ve got a reputable source of the drug, that you’re not taking more than you should, you’re following the instructions.
These are all very wise things when it comes to taking dietary supplements and it is advised that you stop taking the supplement if you experience any side effects.
In situations like these it is always guaranteed that the manufacturers of the product will comment on what has happened to assure users their product is safe. And that is exactly what they did when they stated that the TGS had not notified them of the situation that occurred.
In the 14 years we have been producing protein powders with added herbal extracts we have not been notified of any adverse events. The individual was notably taking a Garcinia Cambogia supplement as well, which was not our product. Based on 14 years of well tolerated use of our product range, we will not be reconsidering our use of green tea extract.
This in itself should so how much faith the company has in their product and are tactfully shifting the blame onto the Garcinia Cambogia supplement which was bought online, with a registered address in Australia.
The overall verdict seems to be that green tea extract is safe to consume in moderate amounts and is a low-risk herbal substance. A spokeswoman for the TGA said that some protein powders that are used as sports supplements are regulated as foods and that is why it was not on the register of Therapeutic Goods. She said:
The TGA is continuing to investigate the report it received relating to the BSC protein powder and liver failure as part of a larger investigation into this issue, noting that the TGA has not received any other reports of liver failure with this product. The results will be made public if there is sufficient evidence of a safety issue to warrant further action.
In the future we can be assured that we will see more stories like this to some degree and we await any further action from the TGA.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.