Each year, about 23,000 people in the United States have to go to the emergency room (ER) because of dietary supplements consumption, and about 2,100 people need hospitalisation, a new study found.
In the study – published October 14 in the New England Journal Medicine – the researchers said that more than twenty percent of the visits to the emergency room involved unsupervised children who swallowed dietary supplements, and almost thirty percent of the cases involved adults ages 20 to 34.
Most of the supplements taken by the patients were nutritional – vitamins, minerals, amino acids – homeopathic, and herbal supplements.
For the study, the researchers analysed data that was collected from 63 emergency rooms in the United States over a nine-year period.
Between 2004 and 2013, about 3,700 people visited in emergency room in the 63 hospitals, and 400 received hospitalisation. Using these numbers, the researchers calculated the yearly estimated numbers nationwide.
The 23,000 emergency room visits and the 2,100 hospitalisations that were estimated by the researchers are “likely an underestimate of adverse events,” Dr. Andrew Geller, a medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion in Atlanta, said.
That is because a lot of people who suffer negative side effects due to dietary supplements do not visit the emergency room. They either treat the problem at home by themselves, or go to their doctor, or to a local clinic.
Dietary supplements are not tested for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, before they are released on the market.
In the study, the researchers found that of all the people that had negative reactions to the supplements, 28 percent were young adults. Children younger than four were involved in 22 percent of the cases, adults ages 35 to 49 in 15 percent of the cases, and people over 65 in only 12 percent of the cases.
Geller says that a lot of young adults are unaware of the side effects of supplements, and of the harm that dietary supplements may cause to their heath. For people ages 20 to 30, energy supplements and weight loss supplements accounted for 50 percent of the emergency room visits.
Researchers encourage young people to talk to their doctors before starting a weight loss diet based on dietary supplement.
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