Excess Selenium Content in Supplements not Listed on Label

Selenium is essential to good health but required only in small amounts. Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world. Selenium also can be found in some meats and seafood. Animals that eat grains or plants that were grown in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. In the U.S., meats and bread are common sources of dietary selenium. Some nuts are also sources of selenium. Brazil nuts can contain as much as 544 micrograms of selenium per ounce. They also may contain far less selenium. It is wise to eat Brazil nuts only occasionally due to their unusually high selenium content.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration testing has found hazardous levels of selenium, up to 200 times greater than the actual amount stated on the label, in Tropical Orange and Peach Nectar flavors of “Total Body Formula” and orange/tangerine flavor of “Total Body Mega Formula.” Testing also showed elevated levels of chromium in the supplements, up to 17 times greater than the amount stated on the label. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with state health departments to identify cases of selenium toxicity associated with the supplements. Total Body Essential Nutrition, Inc., has voluntarily recalled the affected products.

CDC urges consumers to throw away all bottles of Total Body Formula Tropical Orange with lot numbers 4016801, 4024801 and 4031801; Total Body Formula Peach Nectar with lot numbers 4031803.

The company distributed supplements to Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, and sold them directly over the internet. Ten of these states have reported cases of selenium toxicity.

Although the human body requires selenium in small amounts, large amounts of selenium ingestion can be harmful. Symptoms of selenium toxicity can vary among individuals, and are dependent on a number of factors, including dose, type, and form of selenium ingestion, as well as the length of time used. Symptoms include significant hair loss, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain, fatigue, fingernail changes, and blistering skin. Patients reported that symptoms occur roughly 5-10 days after taking selenium. After discontinuing use of the product, symptoms of selenium toxicity may last several weeks, but should improve eventually without treatment for poisoning. There currently is no proven antidote for selenium poisoning.

Supplements are considered less likely to cause chromium toxicity because chromium levels in supplements are not as elevated. Symptoms of chromium toxicity can include flushing, rash, dizziness, headache, agitation, confusion, chest pain, gastrointestinal disorders, elevated liver enzymes, muscle breakdown, blood cell problems, and kidney problems. There also is no proven antidote for chromium toxicity.

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