CDC: Mounting Illness Reports Linked to Selenium Supplement

April 21, 2008

Health officials are investigating more than 180 reports of illness in people who took dietary supplements containing toxic levels of the mineral selenium.

Last month, federal officials warned consumers about harmful doses of selenium – a mineral considered healthful in small amounts – in plastic bottles of liquid Total Body Formula and Total Body Mega Formula.

The manufacturer recalled the product March 27, but reports of 184 illnesses indicate many people are still taking it, health officials said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found up to 200 times the label level of selenium in the products. The agency also found 17 times the label level of chromium but has not yet concluded if those levels are toxic.

Toxic levels of the minerals were in about 1,200 bottles distributed in 16 states and over the Internet, said Dr. James Lando, who is leading the team working on the investigation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials are looking into an escalating number of illnesses in 10 states – Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina.

No deaths have been reported. One person has been hospitalized.

Reported symptoms include hair loss, discolored and painful fingernails, muscle cramps, joint pain, diarrhea and fatigue. Victims have grown ill five to 10 days after beginning to take affected products. Death is possible but unlikely, health officials said.

The products are distributed by Total Body Essential Nutrition Inc. of Woodstock, Ga. The company did not return a message last week from The Associated Press.

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