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Chapter 14

Natural Substances in Supplements and Nutraceuticals as Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can be found in materials and products perceived as ‘safe’ by the public, including nutraceuticals. ‘Nutraceutical’ is a very broad term that designates any substance that may be considered as food or part of a food as well as providing health benefits. The term may include a range of products, known variously as dietary supplements, natural health products or food supplements: herbal products or'botanicals’ feature prominently. The intake of nutraceuticals is widespread and the range of substances and intended functions is broad; thus, adverse effects of nutraceuticals are definitely a challenge for risk assessors. In general, a more consistent international definition of what is a nutraceutical is required. Intended biological actions and target populations should be clearly defined in terms of age, gender and physiological status. Beyond biological action, the health-promoting scope should be clearly defined in humans. Some nutraceuticals may provide nutrients that, at excess intakes, induce adverse effects, such as algal supplements providing a high iodine intake with hyperstimulation of thyroid. Others provide plant bioactives and other non-nutrient functional substances with potential endocrine-disrupting effects, such as isoflavones from soy-based supplements. Dose–response relationships for the relevant endocrine effects, either beneficial or adverse, should be assessed, taking into account sex- and age-related differences; reporting of adverse effects of nutraceuticals should be strengthened. The approach toward nutraceuticals has to be that of evidence-based risk-to-benefit assessment.

Publication details


Print publication date
08 Dec 2020
Copyright year
2021
Print ISBN
978-1-78801-741-1
PDF eISBN
978-1-83916-073-8
ePub eISBN
978-1-83916-083-7
From the book series:
Issues in Toxicology