Dietary supplements, especially ones designed for weight loss or increased energy, are causing adverse health effects and sending thousands of unsuspecting young adults to the hospital every year. According to a recent report published by the federal government, many widely-marketed and popular herbal supplements lead to more than 23,000 emergency room visits every year. Approximately 2,154 of these visits become extended hospital stays.
In a first-of-its-kind study co-authored by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the report documents how dietary supplements have resulted in injuries and hospitalizations nationwide. Dr. Andrew Geller, lead author of the study, explained the importance of the report’s findings.
“People may not realize dietary supplements can cause adverse effects, but each year thousands of people are treated in emergency departments because of adverse events related to these supplements.”
Originally published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the data used for the federal report was collected from 63 emergency departments across the U.S. over a 10 year period.
Many of the ER visits were the result of a young adult between the ages of 20 and 34 who took a dietary supplement designed for weight loss or as an energy boost. After ingesting the supplement, common symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations, as well as elevated heart rate occurred.
Unfortunately, there were also several documented cases of unsupervised children accidentally consuming dietary supplements. According to Dr. Geller, young children getting into the supplements accounted for 20 percent of the emergency room visits.
As reported by the New York Times, the study revealed that supplements used for weight loss or improved energy were the leading products that led to the majority of cardiovascular issues. While other symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, as well as allergic reactions, occurred in a wide variety of products including amino acids and vitamin and mineral supplements. Difficulty swallowing, another patient complaint, was more likely to be experienced by older adults over 65.
The study measured emergency room visits caused by ingesting dietary supplements, it did not, however, track if any of the visits led to deaths.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, NBA superstar Lamar Odom suffered multiple strokes and was hospitalized after ingesting a Viagra-like herbal supplement. His condition has since improved and is expected to recover.
Dr. Geller does not necessarily rule out taking a dietary supplement, but stressed the importance of discussing the potential benefits and any safety concerns with your doctor beforehand.
“Some dietary supplements may have benefits, but there are risks which are not the same among any two dietary supplements.”
In an interview with CBS News, Dr. Andrew Greenberg, director of the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory, explained there are many misconceptions about dietary supplements, including more is not always better.
“If your doctor tells you to take two pills, you take two pills, but if you go to a nutrition store you may think if two pills is good, then six must be great. In the supplement world, more is not necessarily good.”
Herbal supplements do not get the same scrutiny as prescription drugs. Although they are not to be marketed as a treatment or prevention of any disease, many people still take dietary supplements either to relieve a particular symptom or for general health enhancement. Under current federal law, herbal supplements are deemed safe until proven otherwise.
Dietary supplement industry advocates criticized the study, saying the data only shows a very small fraction of people sustain injury when taking a dietary supplement. In comparison, over 150 million Americans safely use herbal products daily without incident.
It should be noted that bad reactions to prescription drugs cause 30 times as many visits to the ER. Unlike the reaction to dietary supplements in young people, the emergency room visits due to prescription drugs occur mostly in older adults.
The researchers noted that 50 percent of U.S. adults took at least one dietary supplement last month, and billions are spent on herbal supplements for weight loss, or otherwise, every year.
[Featured photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images]