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Over-the-Counter “Adrenal Support” Supplements Contain Thyroid and Steroid-Based Adrenal Hormones



      To assess whether dietary supplements that are herbal and/or animal-derived products, marketed for enhancing metabolism or promoting energy, “adrenal fatigue,” or “adrenal support,” contain thyroid or steroid hormones.


      Twelve dietary adrenal support supplements were purchased. Pregnenolone, androstenedione, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, cortisol, cortisone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, synthetic glucocorticoids (betamethasone, dexamethasone, fludrocortisone, megestrol acetate, methylprednisolone, prednisolone, prednisone, budesonide, and triamcinolone acetonide) levels were measured twice in samples in a blinded fashion. This study was conducted between February 1, 2016, and November 1, 2016.


      Among steroids, pregnenolone was the most common hormone in the samples. Budesonide, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, androstenedione, cortisol, and cortisone were the others in order of prevalence. All the supplements revealed a detectable amount of triiodothyronine (T3) (63-394.9 ng/tablet), 42% contained pregnenolone (66.12-205.2 ng/tablet), 25% contained budesonide (119.5-610 ng/tablet), 17% contained androstenedione (1.27-7.25 ng/tablet), 8% contained 17-OH progesterone (30.09 ng/tablet), 8% contained cortisone (79.66 ng/tablet), and 8% contained cortisol (138.5 ng/tablet). Per label recommended doses daily exposure was up to 1322 ng for T3, 1231.2 ng for pregnenolone, 1276.4 ng for budesonide, 29 ng for androstenedione, 60.18 ng for 17-OH progesterone, 277 ng for cortisol, and 159.32 ng for cortisone.


      All the supplements studied contained a small amount of thyroid hormone and most contained at least 1 steroid hormone. This is the first study that measured thyroid and steroid hormones in over-the-counter dietary “adrenal support” supplements in the United States. These results may highlight potential risks of hidden ingredients in unregulated supplements.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      ID (identification), LC-MS/MS (tandem mass spectrometry), OTC (over-the-counter), T3 (triiodothyronine), T4 (thyroxine)
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