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Concerns About Over-the-Counter Thyroid Supplements: Editorial

By Shamir Benji
 
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There are many people who are constantly tired, feel depressed and complain of lack of energy. These same individuals have often been seen by their physicians and told that nothing is wrong. Thus, many of these people have been turning to health supplements sold in nutritional stores to replenish their energy. One of these supplements which is widely consumed and readily available as an over-the-counter agent is thyroid hormones.

There are several varieties of crude thyroid hormone extracts available in health food stores, made from chopped-up animal thyroid gland. The quality of these products is unregulated and the level of the hormones is variable. In many cases, the type of animal from which the thyroid gland is derived is unknown.

Now researchers say that using these over-the-counter thyroid products can cause more harm than good.

The FDA has always insisted that thyroid hormones are only prescription-based agents because their unregulated use can lead to serious adverse effects. If taken in high doses, thyroid hormones can increase the heart rate, cause palpitations, anxiety, diarrhea, weight loss and induce irregular heartbeats. It is because of these adverse effects that the use of thyroid hormone is controlled.

In the latest study done by Dr. V. Bernet at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, it was discovered that not only did 9/10 supplements contain the real hormones, but the amount of hormone exceeded doses found in prescription thyroid medication. (1)

Dr. Bernet mentioned that people who abuse thyroid hormone for weight loss will be disappointed with such products. The amount of the thyroid hormone required for weight loss is dangerously high. In addition there is very little evidence that thyroid hormone can reverse fatigue in people who do not really have actual hypothyroidism.

These studies once again reveal the dangers of buying over-the-counter hormones. Dr. Bernet mentioned that there is a great need for better monitoring of the health food industry and the sale of such products should be regulated. (2)

For consumers, it is important to be aware the health supplement industry offers relatively cheap products with false promises.

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