Researchers have recently discovered the presence of tamoxifen, a pharmaceutical drug used to treat breast cancer, in Esto Suppress, a supplement marketed to bodybuilders. This discovery further highlights our need to regulate the content and quality of supplements, to avoid potentially dangerous substances from being unwittingly ingested.
Tamoxifen is a drug that is sometimes prescribed for both the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. It is also sometimes used to treat gynaecomastia (breast swelling) in men, a condition which is usually due to hormonal imbalances. According to the National Cancer Institute, tamoxifen suppresses the effects of estrogen in breast tissue, but actually mimics estrogen in uterine and bone tissues.
In a letter published by the British Medical Journal, the researchers, who hail from Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom, state that they found tamoxifen in three out of four samples of this supplement, which were collected between 2011 and 2012. One of the drug’s chemical names was found to be listed on the label.
The researchers also explain that bodybuilders who are using anabolic steroids sometimes take tamoxifen intentionally to block the gynaecomastia symptoms that these steroids can cause. However, it is entirely possible that many men simply looking to build muscle, who were not using steroids, took this supplement not knowing what it was and were therefore exposed to the drug.
According to the researchers, past surveys of bodybuilding products have found that they sometimes contain steroids, erectile-stimulating drugs, appetite suppressants, anti-anxiety medications, and other various stimulants. Many of these products were labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ dietary supplements.
In the United States, the FDA does not screen supplements before they hit the shelves. It is only if there is a complaint that the FDA steps in, and while it does have the legal authority to pull offending products off the shelves, some products containing dangerous substances remain on the market for many years before complaints are made.
Last summer, we reported on a B-vitamin supplement that was found to contain an illegal steroid, which did not appear on the ingredient label at all. The FDA caught wind of this only after 29 people reported fatigue, muscle cramps, and liver and thyroid problems after using it. Men also reported impotence, and women reported abnormal hair growth and missed menstrual periods. Seven people were reportedly hospitalized as a result of taking this innocent-looking vitamin supplement.
All of this uncertainty about supplements underscores that whenever possible, we should be getting our vitamins, minerals, energy and protein boosts straight from the source: from whole, natural foods and herbs. Even if they are not contaminated with dangerous substances, most synthetic supplements often are not easily absorbed by the body. The scary thing is, it is sometimes nearly impossible to tell which supplements may be hiding dangerous ingredients, which may be disguised on the label, or not on the label at all.
If your state of health requires that you take a particular supplement, be sure to choose a high-quality brand from a manufacturer that you trust. Do your homework: check the company’s sources and references, talk to a natural health professional, and ask friends and family members about their experiences with a certain brand – it is not wise to rely on references paid by the company itself.
While high-quality supplements do exist, and some manufacturers work very hard to keep the herbs, vitamins and minerals in as natural of a form as possible, with the lack of regulation surrounding these products, we have to be very careful. Whenever possible, it is the very best choice to get your nutrition from organic, natural foods.
-The Alternative Daily