Wanting to take part in the newest fitness fad, twenty-seven-year-old Matthew Whitby went online and order protein supplements.
Made with "natural" ingredients, like green tea extract and tropical fruit garcinia cambogia, Whitby had no idea the detrimental effects the supplements would have on his body.
After taking the supplements, however, the young father's liver failed, and he was told he had just two weeks to live. Needing an emergency liver transplant, he was forced to accept a liver that had been infected with Hepatitis B.
So what caused the liver failure? According to MSN, it was likely the green tea extract found in the protein supplements. The American College of Gastroenterology reports that green tea extract can actually be toxic and can cause liver damage in some individuals.
Dr. Herbert Bonkovsky, M.D tells Shape that the issue lies in polyphenols found in green tea extract called catechins. Too many catechins can actually work against the body, preventing it from metabolizing food and turning it into energy. The result can be jaundice, hepatitis, or liver failure.
Whitby had no idea of the potentially deadly effects of green tea extract, and he laments that there was no warning on the label.
"I didn't think something you could buy online or just over the counter did the damage that it did to me,'' Whitby says. "They didn't say anything about 'could cause liver failure.'"
According to NIH, green tea extract is found in over one hundred over-the-counter herbal supplements, and has become a popular as a weight-loss tool. Surprisingly, though, it is not strictly regulated by the FDA.
And like in Australia, where Whitby resides, many green tea supplement labels in the United States do not contain any warning about the liver damage risk.
Whitby's doctors note that his case is one of the most extreme they've seen, and most other cases have "resolved spontaneously." Experts say that green tea in moderation — particularly drinking green tea — is still safe, but extracts should be taken in moderation.
As for Whitby, who will be required to take expensive medications for the rest of his life, he wants to warn others about the dangers of those seemingly harmless weight-loss supplements.