Phytonutrient Blog

Dietary supplements drive 20,000 Americans to the emergency room, a year

Published in the Press – October 2015

Food compliments should be taken with caution
Food compliments should be taken with caution

The consumption of dietary supplements leads more than 20,000 people a year to hospital emergency departments in the United States, according to a federal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Nearly one-third of these patients (28%) are young adults between the ages of 20 and 34. About 10 percent of the total number of people who went to the emergency room required hospitalization, according to the study by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researchers analyzed ten years of statistics (2004-2013) from 63 representative hospitals in the United States. Supplements for weight loss or for energy, which are not regulated unlike medications, were responsible for 71.8% of these emergency room visits.

Cardiovascular symptoms

These patients complained of cardiovascular symptoms, including palpitations, chest pain and rapid heart rate (tachycardia). 20-34 year olds accounted for 58% of these cases, according to the study.

This is the first study to reveal such a high number of serious health problems related to the consumption of dietary supplements, an industry that is worth $32 billion a year in the United States and is under increased scrutiny by federal authorities and consumer groups. The latter are calling for stricter regulations.

Allergic reactions

In addition to cardiovascular problems, the consumption of these supplements leads to severe allergic reactions, vomiting and nausea related to their very varied composition (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbal products).

No dietary supplement requires the green light from the FDA to be marketed in the United States, unlike drugs.

Yet, experts explain, some contain substances that can have powerful dangerous effects on the body. But their manufacturers are not obliged to put warnings on labels.

According to a 1994 law, decried by U.S. health authorities, dietary supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise.

The federal study does not provide any statistics on the deaths that may have resulted from the consumption of these products because it only tracked hospital visits.

Article in the Journal La Presse – October 2015


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