You’re Taking Viagra and Don’t Even Know It

Half of you reading this need to stop your dangerous habit.

I’m talking to the 49% of Americans who take dietary supplements. More specifically, I want to focus on those “magic cure” pills that promise everything from better sexual performance to quick and easy weight loss.

Last month, you likely saw headlines about hundreds of supplements tainted with prescription drugs. The study ran in JAMA. It revealed that nearly 776 dietary supplements tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2007 and 2016 contained pharmaceutical-grade drugs. That’s right… Your “all natural” weight loss drug likely had some sort of steroid in it.

It’s the latest cannon blast in the war between the supplement industry and the FDA…

I’m familiar with this feud. In the late 1980s I saw tensions boil over between a bunch of tree-hugging “flower power” folks and hardline scientists. There were raids on naturopathic clinics and a lot of fury over the regulation of so-called “all natural” supplements.

This was resolved in 1994 with the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. It meant that dietary supplements no longer fell under regulation. What’s more, the FDA now must prove a supplement is dangerous before it can fall under regulatory rules.

That’s why this list has caused some waves. Taking supplements laced with prescription drugs just leads to trouble. You could set yourself up for dangerous side effects, medication interactions, or worse.

For instance, most of the male enhancement drugs contained sildenafil. Sound familiar? That’s the active drug in Viagra.

Dangerous interactions can occur with sildenafil and heart drugs like nitroglycerin and even some antibiotics. Sildenafil isn’t recommended for anyone with heart or lung disease either. Think about it… Do you tell your doctor every supplement you take? Most people don’t. And that can spell disaster.

Similarly, one of the drugs added to the weight-loss supplements included sibutramine, an appetite suppressant that left the U.S. market in 2010. The reason: the drug had side effects like heart failure and kidney failure.

So many folks might turn to these supplements for a quick fix. Maybe you’re embarrassed to ask your doctor for a pill to fight erectile dysfunction. Or you want a short cut to help with weight loss because you just don’t have the time to exercise. Or worse, maybe you think they’re a healthy addition to your lifestyle.

Last week, the BBC profiled a 50-year-old who suffered liver damage from supplements. Jim McCants took green tea supplements for just two to three months. He thought they would help him as he began to exercise and eat properly to lose weight. Instead, he suffered liver damage so severe that he needed a liver transplant.

It’s not worth the risk.

You might think these fake drugs are easy to spot… But they aren’t always. We peeked at the full list of drugs (you can find it here). The majority of these companies aren’t well-known and seem to tip us off that they’re snake-oil salesmen. These names include Envy Me and Nature’s Universe. However, some of these names surprised us… They sound like legitimate businesses. Groups like Palo Alto Labs and VitaminBestBuy seem trustworthy.

Don’t fall for it.

Remember, dietary supplements like vitamins are meant as just that… to supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle. They aren’t quick fixes and they certainly are no replacement for medication. And in some cases, like the green tea extract pills, they’re so dangerous that they could kill you.

That’s why I always advocate for simple solutions. For any problem you have, try simple lifestyle changes first. Erectile dysfunction (ED), for instance, can have many underlying causes. But exercise, coffee, a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep all help fight ED naturally.

And to lose weight, try following a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet and increase your exercise. If you still need help, talk to your doctor about safe options instead of turning to a quick – and potentially lethal – fix.

What We’re Reading…

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 1, 2018