Dietary Supplements Can Be Dangerous

dietary-supplementsIf you happen to visit the health and hygiene section of any grocery store in the United States, you are likely to see a number of dietary supplements. Products that are marketed as being good for weight loss and energy enhancement would appear to be relatively benign; however, many of those products can result in problems. New research suggests that more than 20,000 emergency room visits a year are related to dietary supplements, The New York Times reports. The cases often involve young adults experiencing heart problems.

The findings come from a new government study, the first of its kind, which analyzed emergency room visits at a large network of hospitals around the nation over 10 years, according to the article. The researchers found that 10 percent of emergency room visits involving dietary supplements required hospitalization.

Part of the danger associated with dietary supplements stem from a lack of oversight. Prescription drugs require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval before they can be sold to the public. However, under a 1994 federal law dietary supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise and they are not required to list major side effects, the article reports.

“This is very disheartening,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the new research. “What we’re seeing from this study is that the system has failed. It’s failing to protect consumers from very serious harms.”

A supplement industry trade group spokesman, Duffy Mackay, believes that the new research indicates that supplements are safe.

“We have over 150 million Americans taking these products each year,” he said. “This suggests that far less than one-tenth of 1 percent of supplement users will visit the emergency room.”

The study appears in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Self medication of any kind (without a physician’s oversight) can be dangerous.

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