Stern warning against use of illegal health supplements

Tea and health supplements containing Sibutramine and Phenolphatlein have been banned in the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Doctors have warned residents against the indiscriminate use of health supplements, which must be procured only through legal channels and in consultation with medical professionals or certified fitness experts and nutritionists.

The warning comes in the wake of a recent Gulf News report of a young expatriate in Abu Dhabi lapsing into coma after consuming health supplements.

British expatriate Tristran Albert slipped into a coma following the ingestion of health supplements containing insulin on November 18, 2017.

His father Neville Albert told Gulf News that Tristran was not diabetic and had consumed insulin-spiking supplements that caused hypoglycaemia, traumatic brain injury, respiratory failure and eventual coma.

The patient, now 20, continues to be in a coma and is receiving rehabilitative care at a long-term facility in Abu Dhabi.

Undeclared steroids

Doctors said certain supplements contain non-declared anabolic steroids that are available illegally and used without supervision.

They not only cause infertility, but also heart damage and other medical conditions.

– Dr Dejan Jovanovic, sports medicine specialist and head of rehabilitation medicine at the Emirates Hospital Group’s Sport.

Dr Dejan Jovanovic, sports medicine specialist and head of rehabilitation medicine at the Emirates Hospital Group’s Sport Clinic, said while most health supplements in the UAE’s regulated market were safe, it was the unauthorised supplements “enhancement containing anabolic steroids and synthetic testosterone” coming in from Asian countries and sold illegally that were causing most harm.

“Health supplements are usually of two categories. One that contains combinations of multi-vitamins, whey protein, glutamine, creatinine, BCAA (brain-chained amino acids), caffeine and other micro-nutrients. They are well regulated by the Health Ministry and are available through registered dealers at pharmacies and health and nutritional supplement outlets. These supplements help in the replenishing nutritive substances and repair and restoration of muscles. Common side effects might be possible toxicity of Vitamin D, if ingested without regular monitoring.”

Health hazard

Dr Jovanovic said, “It’s the illegal supplements that contain anabolic steroids that come under the category of doping supplements. If taken in any form, they can cause damage and put a recreational practitioner or athlete at health risk and legal implications of a failed doping test.”

Hormones taken without proper guidance and from illegal sources can wreak havoc. Dr Jovanovic said steroids can cause sodium retention in the body and lead to hypertension very quickly with significant changes in the lipid profile. Other growth hormones are highly diabetogenic as they accelerate metabolism and exhaust body organs.

According to Dr Laura Melado, fertility consultant at the IVI Fertility Clinic in Abu Dhabi, indiscriminate use of anabolic steroids causes infertility in men in the age group of 18-35. She said: “Anabolic steroids are the synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone that many athletes and body building enthusiasts take them to bulk up their muscles.” However, they can lead to low sperm count and over a long period chronic infertility.

These banned substances used by women to bulk up muscles also result in infertility, imbalance in estrogen-progesterone, delay in menstrual cycles and appearance of male external manifestations such as excessive hair and change in voice.

Adil Firoz, a Dubai-based physical trainer said: “Today, most working people have no time to make sure their diets are balanced with the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Very often, if a person does intense training we prescribe one to two tablespoons of whey protein twice a day to meet the protein requirement of the body.”

But sometimes cheap unauthorised health supplements that people buy contain traces of anabolic steroids and other chemicals.

What the regulators say ?

Dubai Municipality has appealed to youngsters to buy health supplements verified through its online app-based system Montaji.

Montaji registers, monitors and regulates the distribution of products that helps consumers detect the original from the fake. All a person has to do is scan the bar code to know the details about the product.

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