Be Careful about Holiday Meals, Expert Warns

By Levy, Sandra | Drug Topics, December 16, 2002 | Go to article overview

Be Careful about Holiday Meals, Expert Warns


Levy, Sandra, Drug Topics


SELF-CARE

Just when holiday revelers thought the only thing they had to worry about was overeating, here comes a new warning this holiday season: Spices and foods may interact with prescription medications and dietary supplements.

So cautioned Brian Foster, senior science advisor, Therapeutic Products Directorate, Health Canada. Foster spoke at a press/teleconference from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists' annual meeting held recently in Toronto. Foster has done research on herbs, spices, and natural products and their potential for adverse effects when taken with prescription medications and supplements.

"Natural products; herbs; spices; foods, such as grapefruit juice, and vegetables, such as broccoli and celery leaves, have the potential for causing interactions. These natural products and foodstuffs are complex chemicals. All of the products we've examined to date-spices, herbs, and natural products-have the potential to interfere with four major human drug-metabolizing enzymes. This increases the risk for adverse events," said Foster.

Foster cautioned that there is an increased risk of adverse events from holiday meals. Many people are on long-term therapies as well as multiple drug therapies and are at the same time using more natural products such as ginger and garlic. In addition to herbal supplements, Foster said, he is concerned about adverse reactions from single and blended teas. He went on to say that researchers are beginning to understand the risk for adverse events to patients who take anticoagulants and cancer drugs. At high risk are patients who take drugs for AIDS and for organ transplantation.

"The real risk depends on the susceptibility of the patient. We are all unique in the way our bodies handle drugs, and some patients are more susceptible to serious adverse events than others. When you start increasing the number of medications a patient takes, the risk changes. The risk will be very different, depending on how you use the product. If you take the product occasionally or once every couple of weeks or months, the combined use may lead to higher blood levels of the drug. This will increase the risks that are associated with the medications the individuals are taking."

Foster emphasized, too, that many natural products have a certain degree of risk associated with them. …

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