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Dietary Supplements Riskier Than Most Realize
- Updated: October 15, 2015
Every year, dietary supplements are responsible for roughly 23,000 emergency room visits, according to a new study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Many of these visits are due to complications related to taking the dietary supplements, which include herbal supplements, complimentary nutritional supplements, supplemental vitamins, and supplemental minerals.
Annually, Americans spend billions of dollars on dietary supplements, making it a lucrative market for manufacturers to enter. A recent study concluded that nearly half of adults were taking at least one dietary supplement in the past month. Many people don’t realize that adverse effects are possible with these supplements and are caught unaware when they have a bad reaction.
The study conducted by the CDC and FDA used emergency department data from 63 locations around the nation taken between 2004 and 2013.Roughly 20 percent of the emergency room visits involved children who had accidentally ingested a supplement while their caretakers weren’t paying attention. Older adults commonly reported issues with swallowing when taking supplementary vitamins and minerals.
Many of the emergency room visits involved young adults between the ages of 24 and 30. Most of these young adults arrived at the emergency rooms complaining of heart palpitations, increased heart rate, and/or chest pain after taking energy supplements or weight loss products. The study found that 72 percent of adverse events involving cardiovascular issues were linked to energy products and weight loss products. The study was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It is important for people to remember that dietary supplements do not undergo the same rigorous testing that prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs undergo before being released to market. It is against the law to market a supplement for the treatment of a medical condition or disease in the United States, but many people decide to take them for a particular ailment after researching them on the internet.
The agencies want doctors to play a greater role in advising consumers on which dietary supplements are likely to help them and which they should avoid to prevent these adverse events. Doctors should regularly ask patients about their supplement use and provide them with interaction information if they are taking other medications while they are taking the supplements. More action may be able to reduce the number of adverse incidents sending supplement takers to the hospitals.