So, What Could Go Wrong with Unregulated Dietary Supplements?

As noted before on this blog (see below), dietary supplements, marketed as health aids, can be quite dangerous.  More data on the complications has been published (AI Geller et. NEJM 2015; 373:1531-1540).

Here is an excerpt of a summary from the NY Times: Dietary Supplements Lead to 20,000 E.R. Visits Yearly, Study Finds

A large new study by the federal government found that injuries caused by dietary supplements lead to more than 20,000 emergency room visits a year, many involving young adults with cardiovascular problems after taking supplements marketed for weight loss and energy enhancement.

The study is the first to document the extent of severe injuries and hospitalizations tied to dietary supplements, a rapidly growing $32 billion a year industry that has attracted increased scrutiny in the past year and prompted calls for tougher regulation of herbal products….

Among the injuries cited were severe allergic reactions, heart trouble, nausea and vomiting, which were tied to a broad variety of supplements including herbal pills, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Roughly 10 percent, or about 2,150 cases yearly, were serious enough to require hospitalization, the researchers found…

More than a quarter of the emergency room visits occurred among people ages 20 to 34, and half of these cases were caused by a supplement that was marketed for weight loss or energy enhancement…

Medical experts say that these products can be particularly hazardous because they have potent effects on the body and are frequently adulterated with toxic chemicals. The new study found that cardiovascular problems were even more commonly associated with weight loss and energy supplements than prescription stimulants like amphetamine and Adderall, which by law must carry warnings about their potential to cause cardiac side effects…

Under a 1994 federal law that has been widely criticized by health authorities, supplements are considered safe until proved otherwise.

Other points from the study:

  • “Child-resistant packaging is not required for dietary supplements other than those containing iron”
  • While these supplements result in <5% of the numbers for hospitalizations and admissions for pharmaceutical products, “dietary supplements are not regulated and marketed under the presumption of safety.”

Related blog posts:



3 thoughts on “So, What Could Go Wrong with Unregulated Dietary Supplements?

  1. Pingback: “Supplements and Safety” | gutsandgrowth

  2. Pingback: Drug-Induced Liver and Skin Reactions | gutsandgrowth

  3. Pingback: FDA’s Very Limited Ability to Regulate Dietary Supplements | gutsandgrowth

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