Seven out of 10 Australians take some form of vitamin or supplement regularly.
It’s an industry estimated to be worth five billion dollars and growing every day.
But is our obsession with do-it-yourself wellness and the pursuit of a quick fix making us sick?
‘Trick or Treatment’ airs SUNDAY on Channel 9 at 8.30PM after Married at First Sight. For more on 60 Minutes head to the official website.
Tonight, 60 Minutes reveals the truth of what’s really in your supplements and the devastating impact they’ve had on the lives of everyday Aussies striving towards health.
When Matthew Whitby wanted to lose weight, he turned to a protein shake product that contained green tea extract.
But after just five protein shakes, Matthew became gravely ill – and what the doctors told him next turned his world upside down.
“They said I had two weeks, tops, to live,” Whitby tells 60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes.
Whitby had an emergency liver transplant – the scars across his stomach are a daily reminder of the protein shake that almost killed him.
New South Wales woman Merrill Gemmell also found herself staring down the prospect of a liver transplant, after going into liver failure 18 months after she begun taking the herbal supplement Valerian – a common product to assist with sleep that’s available in chemists and supermarkets.
“I was told that I was going into liver failure, and that they were going to talk to the transplant team,” Gemmell tells Liz Hayes.
“I was petrified. I thought I was going to die.”
Brisbane liver transplant surgeon, Dr Paul Clark, found that one-in-three of Merril’s liver cells had died – and that the sleep supplement was the probable cause.
Dr Clark wants all Australians to take a good hard look at what they’re putting into their bodies in the pursuit of a quick health fix.
“It worries me that we have these time bombs out there ticking, that people feel these things are harmless,” Dr Clark says.
While most supplements don’t cause serious injury, doctors warn that the growing popularity of alternative treatments is a cause for concern as many products are not tested or regulated.
Some of Australia’s leading scientists are calling out our DIY wellness crusade – saying that many of the products marketed towards are not just unnecessary, but harmful.
A world-first study from pharmacologist Dr Ian Musgrave and Dr Roger Byard found herbal supplements and Chinese medicine products were littered with contaminants.
“Over 90 percent of them had something wrong with them,” Dr Musgrave says.
“Contaminants like heavy metals, like arsenic, animal products…”
“(We found) Rats, dogs, cats, snow leopard.”
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