Home | News | World News | Green tea supplements warning after teen's organ damage

Green tea supplements warning after teen's organ damage

  • Health Canada ordered stronger warnings on green tea extract product labels
  • Comes after federal safety review prompted by Madeline Papineau, 17, getting ill
  • Joyce Boudreau-Hearn, 55, also from Canada, died after taking the supplements
  • Scores of cases of adverse affects have been reported in the media worldwide
  • These include Australia man given two weeks to live who needed liver transplant
  • Experts say taking them on an empty stomach creates a toxic effect on the liver 

By Claudia Tanner For Mailonline

Published: 07:13 EST, 17 November 2017 | Updated: 07:13 EST, 17 November 2017

  • e-mail

View
comments

A health watchdog has ordered a more explicit warning on labels of green tea extract products over concerns about the risk of liver injury.

The move by Health Canada follows a federal safety review, which was prompted after teenager Madeline Papineau took the pills as a weight loss aid and was left needing dialysis.

At least two deaths linked to the pills have been reported including 55-year-old Joyce Boudreau-Hearn, also from Canada, who lost her life in her attempts to shed the pounds.

Scores of cases of adverse affects have been reported in medical journals and newspapers worldwide in recent years, including a man in Australia who was given two weeks to live and required a liver transplant.

And in England, a 16-year-old girl was rushed to hospital with hepatitis after taking green tea slimming pills.

Last year, Norway's food safety authority issued a similar warning about the supplements. 

The problem appears to lie when taking the pill son an empty stomach with experts now saying it may cause the active ingredients to have a more powerful and toxic effect on the liver 

Madeline Papineau took the green tea pills as a weight loss aid and quickly developed liver damage and needed dialysis
Madeline Papineau took the green tea pills as a weight loss aid and quickly developed liver damage and needed dialysis

Madeline Papineau took the green tea pills as a weight loss aid and quickly developed liver damage and needed dialysis

The 17-year-old, from Cornwall, Ontario, woke up vomiting violently  on the seventh day of taking the slimming aid
The 17-year-old, from Cornwall, Ontario, woke up vomiting violently  on the seventh day of taking the slimming aid
Hospital doctors were alarmed by the yellowish tinge of her skin
Hospital doctors were alarmed by the yellowish tinge of her skin

The 17-year-old, from Cornwall, Ontario, woke up vomiting violently on the seventh day of taking the slimming aid

Health Canada has ordered a more explicit warning on labels of green tea extract products over concerns about the risk of liver injury (stock photo)
Health Canada has ordered a more explicit warning on labels of green tea extract products over concerns about the risk of liver injury (stock photo)

Health Canada has ordered a more explicit warning on labels of green tea extract products over concerns about the risk of liver injury (stock photo)

WORDING OF THE NEW WARNING 

Health Canada is asking companies to update all affected natural health product labels with strengthened warnings to advise that:

  • Rare but serious cases of liver injury have been reported with green tea extract use
  • Consumers should stop using these products if symptoms or signs of potential liver injury appear (the revised warnings appear in the table below).

Green tea capsules are a popular supplement marketed for their anti-cancer fighting properties, anti-oxidant benefits and as a slimming aid. They are sold in various forms including capsules, tablets, powders and liquids.

But experts now say taking the pills on an empty stomach especially may cause the active ingredients to have a more powerful and toxic effect on the liver. 

Health Canada says the risk of liver injury has been legally required to be included on labels of products containing green tea extract since 2008.

But now it has announced it is asking manufacturers to include stronger wording in their warning. 

CASES WORLDWIDE: ALL BELIEVED THAT GREEN TEA PILLS ARE 'HARMLESS' AND 'NATURAL'

Madeline's liver count was dangerously high after taking the pills
Madeline's liver count was dangerously high after taking the pills

Madeline's liver count was dangerously high after taking the pills

Madeline Papineau wanted to drop a few pounds to look good in her prom dress.

The 17-year-old, from Cornwall, Ontario, took a green tea extract promising to increase calorie burn as directed. But on the seventh day, she woke up vomiting violently.

Hospital doctors were alarmed by the yellowish tinge of her skin and blood tests revealed that her alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level – a measure of liver damage – was 2,575 units a litre, whereas normal is in the 7-to-35 range. 

The girl's liver and kidneys were shutting down, and the build-up of fluids in her body was starting to cause heart trouble. She was placed on dialysis and spent 10 days in intensive care, before needing a month at home recovering.

'I can't believe a teenager can just walk into a store and buy stuff like this,' her mother, Julie Papineau, reports The Globe and Mail. 'Madeline was critically ill.'

She said she is pleased with the stronger warning on green tea extract products but feels it doesn't go far enough.

'I stand by my position that this product should be recalled.'

Joyce Boudreau-Hearn's death was reportedly linked to green tea extracts
Joyce Boudreau-Hearn's death was reportedly linked to green tea extracts

Joyce Boudreau-Hearn's death was reportedly linked to green tea extracts

Joyce Boudreau-Hearn, from Mulgrave, Nova Scotia, died of complications from liver failure in 2010 after multiple transplants led to infection. 

Her daughter, Jocelyn Stewart, says the 55-year-old had been healthy before she started taking a green tea extract sold as a weight-loss supplement.

'It says green tea extract – most of us link that to healthy,' Stewart said, according to CBC News. 

'Everybody buys a green tea; you can buy it anywhere. You think you will lose a few pounds. She lost her life.' 

In 2015, a 16-year-old girl in England who was taking a green tea slimming pill turned yellow and developed hepatitis.

The unidentified patient was treated at the A&E department of a Birmingham hospital, explained doctors describing the case in the journal BMJ Case Reports. 

When his liver failed, Matthew was given two weeks to live unless a replacement liver was found for him – and he ended up having to accept one with hepatitis B
When his liver failed, Matthew was given two weeks to live unless a replacement liver was found for him – and he ended up having to accept one with hepatitis B
The painful transplant procedure meant he couldn't lift his children for six months
The painful transplant procedure meant he couldn't lift his children for six months

When his liver failed, Matthew was given two weeks to live unless a replacement liver was found for him – and he ended up having to accept one with hepatitis B

Last year, a 27-year-old man in Australia nearly died after consuming two weight loss products and developing liver failure, 

Matthew Whitby, from Geraldton, was given two weeks to live and had no choice but to accept an emergency transplant of a liver with hepatitis B. 

Doctors say the substance that most likely caused his condition was green tea extract.

'I just want people to know they should always do research and talk to their doctor before taking supplements,' he told Daily Mail Australia at the time.

Health Canada is also asking companies making products aimed at children and adolescents either remove the green tea extract or revise the label to specify that it is only intended for adults over 18.

Green tea's active ingredient is a type of antioxidant called catechins. In particular, epigallocatchin gallate (EGCG) – the most abundant catechin appears to be the culprit.

Extracts contain these at much higher levels than are found in the brewed version of the popular drink.

The agency also warned that parents and caregivers should check to make sure that their child is not taking a green tea extract product.

It advised people to stop using the product and seek medical help if they develop yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), dark urine, sweating, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, unusual tiredness, or loss of appetite, as they may be symptoms of liver problems.

Mounting evidence 

According to CBC's Marketplace, there are more than 60 cases worldwide of liver failure associated with green tea supplements documented in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 

Papers published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology have linked dozens of cases of liver damage to green tea EGCG. 

CBC say at least two deaths have been partially linked to taking the capsules.

Last March, the Norwegian food safety authority issued a similar warning about the supplements. 

Mattilsynet acted after it received several reports of adverse events, the majority of which were liver damage. It pointed to higher levels of EGCG as a concern.  

Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council, said taking the pills on an empty stomach may be dangerous.

He told Nutra Ingredients: 'The presumption is that people are taking these EGCG-containing supplements on an empty stomach. 

'Concentrated catechins that hit the liver in a fasting state might have an effect that is different than when the liver is metabolising food.; 

Rare but a link exists

Health Canada's latest warning concludes that 'the available evidence confirms a link between green tea extract and rare liver-related adverse reactions'.

The statement on its website said:  'Green tea in any form, including as beverages, foods and an extract in natural health products, is considered generally safe for the majority of consumers.

'What remains unclear from the evidence is why some people may be more susceptible than others to liver injury.  

I'n most cases, the liver-related side effects are reversible upon stopping use of the product and with medical attention.'  

Read more:

Most watched News videos

MOST READ NEWS

Most Watched Videos

Most Read News

Best Of The Web

 Join The Ghana Social Network

More from World News

Recent Comments

Most Popular Posts

USA News

UK News

News - Articles
Ghana Articles News
Go Up!