What happens when the very health supplements that one consumes to gain better health, and by extension increase longevity, nearly ends their life? Unfortunately, a 23-year-old woman from Texas lived through this hypothetical yet frightful ordeal.
Little did, Emily Goss, an analyst from Amarillo, Texas, know that the supplement she took for months would nearly cause her death due to liver failure. However, Goss underwent a liver transplant on Christmas Day and lived to tell the tale. "I just couldn't believe that a supplement could cause something so life-threatening," Goss said.
Four pills a day took her to the doctor one day
The supplement, 'Balance', which Goss consumed every day, claims to be a herbal supplement that promotes weight management, hormonal balance, fertility, and complexion. Goss consumed four pills every day for months. Things, however, took a drastic turn when her body began developing painful symptoms shortly after Thanksgiving. The symptoms included fatigue, yellowing of the whites of her eyes, and abdominal pain.
She had to be darted from Amarillo to Methodist Hospital in Dallas less than three weeks later due to chronic liver failure. Such was her condition that she was moved up the list for a liver transplant.
Dr Jeffrey Weinstein, Medical Director of Liver Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Services at Methodist Hospital, Dallas, said, "Every time we have a case of acute liver failure, it's always an interesting case. It's also a medical emergency."
The Christmas miracle
Goss's condition was dire and she needed a liver transplant to save her life. On Christmas Day, the Texan had her miracle when she received a life-saving transplant. It could take the 23-year-old at least a year to make a complete recovery. "I have my life because someone gave me their liver and I'm just so thankful," Goss said to NBC 5.
The answer to the question—what ingredient caused the liver failure?—can be ascertained only after conducting the biopsy of her old liver. Research has shown that over 1,000 herbal products and medications can be responsible for liver injuries. However, doctors believe that the supplement Goss consumed was the cause, ruling out others.
Weinstein pointed out that most of these supplements are advertised as natural and healthy. He told NBC5, "I view them all as drugs and I view them all as chemicals, so there should be good caution into how you use them and why you use them." He also added that despite being liver failure being a rare occurrence, nearly 30-40 percent of the cases are connected to dietary or herbal supplements.
Producer of the supplement calls the diagnosis 'speculative'
Alani Nu, the producer of 'Balance', in an email statement to NBC 5, attested to its commitment to consumer safety and wished Goss a speedy recovery.
However, it also added, "That said, it would be premature for us to respond to a suggestion that her illness was caused by a specific dietary supplement. Such a suggestion is highly speculative. During our nearly 2 years of operation, we have had no previous similar suggestions involving our customers."
Not so healthy supplements after all
Goss' death scare is not the first reported case of possible supplement-induced health concerns or deaths in a developed country.
In 2018, a Singaporean man in his seventies was taken to the hospital to relieve chronic pain in his knees caused by the excessive production of cortisol due to Cushing's Syndrome. The condition was said to have offset due to the consumption of a supplement that was later banned by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) of Singapore.
The consumption of protein shakes that were known to have traces of harmful chemicals led to the death of a 25-year-old Meegan Hefford from Perth, Australia. The mother of one was found unconscious and taken to the hospital. She was declared brain dead in 2017 and was pulled off life support in July 2019.
Logan J Stiner, an 18-year-old competitive wrestler, and high school senior died in 2014 after mixing what turned out to be a lethal dose of caffeine powder to his homemade fitness drink. The supplement that is said to have claimed the young wrestler's life, though unregulated, was popular among competitive athletes and bodybuilders.