Natural not always best, say scientists

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags St john Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

In the past few years, there has been a tremendous upsurge in
interest in natural products as part of a general trend towards
healthier consumer lifestyles. But a report due out this week will
warn that some natural products can pose a health risk.

Entitled Making Sense of Chemical Stories​, the report is due to be published on Wednesday by the charity Sense About Science. It will seek to debunk science 'myths', such as the accumulation of chemicals in the body from use of a variety of chemical products, and highlight the stringent regulations governing synthetic chemicals.

These regulations, the researchers say, mean that synthetic chemicals are often safer than their natural alternatives, and are being unfairly blamed for causing cancer and other illnesses.

Although synthetic products may contain substances known to be harmful in large quantities, the amounts contained in consumer products are so negligible that they would not even have an effect when all products are considered.

Amongst the natural substances questioned, on the other hand, is St John's Wort, a herb known and widely used for its anti-depressant properties. However since the active component responsible for this has not been identified, there is no advice on correct or safe dosage.

Moreover, St John's wort has been implicated in some studies of interactions between herbal products and conventional medicine, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and the contraceptive pill.

Foods marketed as 'natural' are also steadily growing in popularity, according to market researcher Mintel. It says that about 5 per cent of new product introductions around the world are flagged as 'all natural', and consumers shopping in mainstream channels are buying products that use 'natural' on packaging, as they see it to be closely related to 'healthier'.

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