Dietary supplements pose high health risks

Maricruz Casares
Junio 8, 2019

Be it weight loss, muscle building or a boost in energy, people today are heavily relying on dietary supplements. She is a researcher with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, in Boston.

"The FDA has issued countless warnings about supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building or sport performance, sexual function, and energy", Or said in a statement. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health for more on dietary supplements and kids.

They used the adverse event reports from January 2004 to April 2015 from the food and dietary supplements database of the U.S. Food and Drug Administrator. For individuals aged 0 to 25 years, the relative risks of dietary supplements relative to vitamins were quantified for severe medical events, which included death, disability, life-threatening events, hospitalization, emergency department visit, and/or required intervention to prevent permanent disability.

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Or said the 977 cases of adverse events the study found - including 40% considered severe - are probably just the tip of the iceberg because most problems with supplements are not reported. Compared to vitamins, a significantly higher risk for severe medical events was observed in supplements promoting muscle building (risk ratio [RR] = 2.7; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.9-4.0), energy (RR = 2.6; 95% CI = 1.9-3.6), and weight loss (RR = 2.6; 95% CI = 1.9-3.4). "That's the question we wanted to answer." Dr. Supplements sold for sexual function and colon cleansing were associated with approximately two times the risk for severe medical outcomes compared with vitamins.

S. Bryn Austin, the senior author of the study, added that reputable doctors do not recommend young people to take dietary supplements like the ones that they analyzed. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have already banned supplements containing vinpocetine, while others have approved the synthetic substance for prescription use only; yet, the drug has mostly flown under the radar of the FDA. And other studies have linked weight-loss and muscle-building supplements with stroke, testicular cancer, liver damage, and even death. Austin said. "It is well past time for policymakers and retailers to take meaningful action to protect children and consumers of all ages".

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