Dangerous Supplements: Why Won't Government Protect You from "Dirty Dozen"

Colloidal silver can turn the skin blue, as shown here. (CNN)

(CBS) With more than half the adult population swallowing over-the-counter dietary supplements to stay healthy, lose weight, treat illness, or gain an edge on the playing field or bedroom, you'd think the government would regulate these products very carefully.

But you'd be wrong.

PICTURES: 12 Dangerous Supplements

In its September issue, Consumer Reports blasts the federal government for lax regulation of the $27 billion supplement market, saying drugstore shelves are stocked with products that can cause all manner of "adverse events," including cancer, heart attack, kidney and liver damage, and even death.

The magazine identified 12 dietary supplements that may be especially risky. Surprisingly, the magazine said, the FDA has issued warnings about the potential dangers posed by eight of the products - in some cases as far back as 1993. In addition, the agency said that it received 1,359 reports of serious adverse effects from manufacturers and 602 from consumers and health professionals from 2008 through 2009.

But neither the warnings nor the reports were enough to get the products taken off the market.

Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor at the magazine, said in a written statement that consumers "are easily lulled into believing that supplements can do no harm because they're 'natural.' However, some natural ingredients can be hazardous, and on top of that the FDA has repeatedly found hazardous ingredients, including synthetic prescription drugs, in supplements."

What can consumers do to protect themselves?

The magazine issued several recommendations, including:

  • Consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking supplements.
  • Be skeptical of claims made for supplements in advertisements.
  • Don't assume that more is better.

Just don't expect the government to use your tax dollars to protect you.

It's a bitter pill to swallow.