Sure everyone wants to be thin. Guys especially want to be buff. Who wants to spend the effort by exercising, dieting and lifting weights? Why not just pop a few supplements, which promise risk/hassle free weight loss and or muscle gain?

It turns out that an alarming 50% of Americans take at least one supplement daily and spend a staggering $32 billion yearly to buy such products. Recent data has shown a dramatic increase in the number of liver injuries from some of these supplements. 10 years ago supplements were responsible for about 7% of liver injuries caused by drugs. Last year that figure rose to 20%.

What’s the problem? Two groups in particular like the supplements: middle aged women who want to lose weight and younger males who want to beef up their muscles.The women choose green tea extract which often contains a chemical dangerous to the liver. The males prefer steroid containing preparations, which among other pleasant side effects such as hair loss, high blood pressure and prostate cancer, can cause severe liver damage.

The supplement industry, due to an absolutely crazy law passed in 1984 by our wise congress, cannot be monitored by the FDA. The only exception is if the drug has caused a significant pattern of injuries. In other words, when you buy that “energy booster” pill you are on your own. It is conservatively estimated that about 70% of the manufacturers do not even follow basic guidelines to prevent adulteration of their products. This means that you really don’t know if the supplement contains other active chemicals or if the amount stated on the bottle is really the amount within the pill.

Many of these supplements claim that they are a “natural” way of losing weight, gaining muscle or fighting the cold. Well, guess what? Measles virus and meningitis bacteria are natural as well. Oh and by the way, last time I checked, pills don’t grow on trees. So how did these “natural” supplements take a pill form?  Furthermore, many FDA approved antibiotics come from natural sources.

Would you buy a car knowing that the car might or might not have the advertised horsepower, sunroof or safety features? Of course you wouldn’t. My advice is to lay off the supplements completely and do the hard work of diet and exercise.

Would you buy