Cardiologists sound the alarm about

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Cardiologists are sounding the alarm about herbal supplements causing heart problems in young people. Dr. Danielle Belardo, a cardiologist in California, says the most common cause of cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, in her patients for about 20 years is taking herbal supplements.

Belardo also said he has young patients who routinely take supplements containing bitter orange and ephedra, both of which have been linked to irregular heartbeats, according to case studies and clinical research, according to Insider, Digi24 reports.

The well-known cardiologist from California also says that it is difficult to identify which compound is the culprit, because patients usually take several supplements. Also, researchers cannot keep up with the ever-increasing consumption of various natural supplements.

“We don’t have a solid literature that tells us exactly what the effects of a particular compound are,”

says Dr. Danielle Belardo, who also complains about the weak regulation of the production and marketing of these products.

Many doctors are concerned about the effects of herbal supplements

The US does not clearly regulate the $1.5 trillion wellness industry, meaning that supplement manufacturers are not required by law to provide evidence of their product’s safety.

Despite this, the number of Americans taking dietary supplements has exploded since the start of the pandemic. In Southern California, Belardo says he often sees patients with heart problems who

“I’m turning to alternative therapies, herbs and supplements.”

She once posted on Twitter – where she is followed by more than 70,000 people – a warning saying she was encountering more and more young people getting sick from supplements. Doctors across the country responded to her message — cardiologists, emergency room doctors and internists — who told her they were dealing with the same phenomenon.

Dr. Martha Gulati, a California cardiologist and president of the American Society of Preventive Cardiology, is one of those doctors. Gulati told Insider that she is concerned that many people falsely believe that “natural” remedies are safer than lab-made pills.

What evidence is there that supplements cause heart problems?

As Belardo noted, trying to find evidence to support the benefits or risks of a supplement is difficult. There are few solid studies in this direction, so most of the existing evidence is case studies—individual cases about which doctors write papers or articles in specialized journals.

Supplements that have been linked to arrhythmia in published research include:

Bitter orange, Citris aurantium. The US National Institutes of Health says that bitter orange may cause irregular heartbeats, but that more research is needed to establish a direct link. Ephedra and the ephedrine alkaloids, compounds banned in the US in 2004 for causing arrhythmia, heart, stroke and death. The compound is still present in supplements despite the ban. A 2021 case study of a 56-year-old man with arrhythmia found that he had taken an herbal pill that also contained ephedrine alkaloids. Fish oil, taken in doses of one gram a day or more, could increases the risk for a type of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, according to several clinical studies. Gulati said fish oil can also interact with blood thinners and cause bleeding.

There are also questions about other supplements such as ashwagandha, an evergreen shrub, that may reduce stress. The plant has been linked to arrhythmias in several case studies.

“Stop believing everything you see on social media”

cardiologists say.

Belardo believes that many people are attracted to alternative medicine because access to medical services has been complicated in recent years, especially during the pandemic. More worryingly, people are getting health advice from social media, and it’s generally wrong. Herbal supplements are also promoted in these media.

Gulati says all the hype for natural supplements can be enticing but misleading.

“Be an informed consumer, don’t be influenced by social media”,

Gulati said.

“Be smart about what you put in your body and educate yourself. Just because it’s over the counter doesn’t mean it’s safe.”