October is Liver Awareness month and what better way to celebrate your second largest organ than by vowing tip-top liver care! The liver’s main job — to filter toxins from the blood — is dependent on optimal health. Almost half of the U.S. adult population hopes to promote their health by taking dietary supplements, but recent research shows that supplements have no clear benefit and might actually be harmful. Still not convinced? A new study, collecting data over a ten-year period, showed that dietary supplements may do more harm than good for the liver.

The study published earlier this month in Hepatology, examined 839 patients with liver damage between 2004 and 2013 to investigate chemical-driven liver damage due to supplements compared to liver damage due to medications. Researchers found that liver damage caused by dietary supplements rose to 20% throughout the study. What’s even more surprising? The study found that death or liver transplantation occurred more often in patients taking non-bodybuilding supplements (13%) than from conventional medications (3%). According to the study, middle-aged women were most affected.

“While many Americans believe supplements to be safe, government regulations require less safety evidence to market these products than what is required for conventional pharmaceuticals,” said lead author Dr. Victor Navarro, from Einstein Medical Center.

Published October 1, 2014