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Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Date:1/21/2009

are taking too much of the over-the-counter natural food products," Braverman said. "This guy was taking 20 of these, that's ridiculous."

Braverman also noted that taking too much iodine can be dangerous.

"Patients are ingesting large amounts of iodine purposely, because some practitioners of voodoo medicine are suggesting that iodine is good for you," Braverman said. "It is necessary to take small amounts, but large amounts can be injurious to the thyroid."

One expert said that supplements can contain substances that while not listed as an active ingredient are not inert. Moreover, kelp is commonly used in supplements because of its high mineral content.

"Dietary supplements can contain plant extracts, or even plant parts like kelp," said Andrew Shao, vice president for scientific & regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "But it is not an inactive ingredient."

Shao thinks the problem resulted from doctors not knowing enough about dietary supplements.

"In this case, what was needed was the knowledge on the part of the physicians that kelp is an excellent source of iodine," Shao said. "Had they known that, they would have known to eliminate those [supplements with kelp] immediately."

More information

For more on dietary supplements, visit the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.



SOURCES: Lewis E. Braverman, M.D., professor, medicine, Boston University; Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition, Washington, D.C.; Jan. 22, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine


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