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September 2014

Dietary Supplement-Related Liver Damage Incidents Triple in 10 Years

Liver injuries caused by herbal and dietary supplements have tripled in the past 10 years, according to a new study conducted by the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN).

The DILIN was established by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to collect and review cases of liver damage caused by prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and herbal and dietary supplements.

In the recent study, 839 consecutive patients at eight DILIN centers with liver injury caused by drugs or dietary supplements were enrolled between 2004 and 2013. Of the participants, 130 cases, or 15.5 percent of all liver injuries, were identified as being caused by herbal and dietary supplements. The researchers found that of the 130 cases, 45 were caused by dietary supplements used for bodybuilding, while 85 were caused by non-bodybuilding supplements.

Throughout the study period, the number of liver injuries caused by dietary supplements increased from 7% to 20%. The supplements used for bodybuilding were linked to jaundice in young men, but did not result in any deaths or require liver transplantations. The supplements not used for bodybuilding were mostly used by middle-aged women and more frequently led to death or required a liver transplantation when compared to injuries from drugs.

The authors concluded that there has been a significant increase in liver injuries caused by herbal dietary supplements in the past ten years, particularly in people taking supplements unrelated to bodybuilding.

For information about the safety of different dietary supplements, please visit Natural Standard’s Food, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Navarro VJ, Barnhart H, Bonkovsky HL, et al. Liver injury from herbals and dietary supplements in the U.S. Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network. Hepatology. 2014 Oct;60(4):1399-408.

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