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Many Supplements Lead to Emergency Room Visits

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Many Supplements Lead to Emergency Room Visits

Recent study found 23,000 people each year have adverse reactions to dietary supplements

Every day thousands of people take dietary supplements. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say some of those supplements are not as safe as you might think. In fact, a recent CDC study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 63 emergency departments records from 2004 through 2013 and found close to 23,000 people visit the emergency department every year because of adverse reactions related to dietary supplements.

Many of these trips to emergency involve cardiac issues caused by weight-loss products and stimulants. A key issue is that many over-the-counter dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means there’s often no way to tell if a supplement is safe or if it will cause adverse side effects.

“The evidence supporting beneficial health effects of most dietary supplements is not very strong, and there are potential adverse effects,” said Mayo Clinic nutrition expert Donald Hensrud, M.D. “One reason people take dietary supplements is to improve their general health. However, the evidence supporting a healthy, balanced diet is magnitudes stronger than any dietary supplement.”

Dr. Hensrud also said that while the CDC study showed the most common dietary supplements that led to emergency room visits were weight-loss and energy supplements, consumers should be aware some other supplements have been shown to cause adverse effects, too. Those supplements include:

B6 (pyridoxine) and niacin, when taken in large amounts
Beta-carotene, particularly in smokers and former smokers
Vitamins A and E, which should be avoided unless prescribed by a physician
Some supplements can be beneficial, but Dr. Hensrud suggests talking to your health-care provider first to make sure the supplements you take are safe. He also recommends storing supplements in a safe place, away from children who could overdose or choke on them.

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BHM Edit Staff