- Young people in the US are experiencing severe side effects after using supplements for weight loss, sexual function, energy, and muscle gain, according to a new retrospective study.
- Supplements send an estimate 23,000 people to the hospital each year in the United States.
- The supplement industry isn’t strictly regulated, so supplement labels may not always reflect what’s actually in the formulas people are taking.
- Always talk with your healthcare provider before using supplements.
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Supplements send an estimated 23,000 people to the hospital each year in the United States, and a new study suggests children and young adults comprise a significant number of these visits. Even more alarming, supplements for weight loss, muscle gain, and sexual function were some of the biggest culprits for adolescent supplement-related hospitalizations, according to a new retrospective study in Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers looked at adverse event reports in a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) database that were filed between January 2005 and April 2005 and found 1,392 adverse event reports related to supplement use in young people (from babies to 25 year-olds).
The researchers zeroed in on 977 reports where a single supplement was deemed responsible for causing a person’s hospital visit.
Weight loss supplements were two to three times more likely than vitamin supplements to send people up to age 11 to the ER, and weight loss, energy, and muscle building supplements were the most common culprits for people ages 12 to 25.
In the 18 to 25 age group, researchers found that men were more likely than women to have “severe medical outcomes” when using these supplements, which were defined as death, disability (or an intervention to prevent this), hospitalization, or emergency room visits.
Experts believe most supplements are unnecessary for healthy people
Existing research suggests most people don’t need to add supplements to their diets to stay healthy. That includes vitamins.
An April study in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at vitamin A, vitamin K, and zinc supplements and found that people who used these pills reaped no added health benefits, but also no risks. The researchers also looked at vitamin D supplements and found that people who took them but didn’t have a diagnosed vitamin D deficiency increased their overall risk for cancer and death.
Experts suggest people should get their daily nutrients from whole foods, not supplements, in order to optimize their health.
“So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, and nuts,” Dr. David Jenkins, a world-renowned nutrition researcher, previously told Business Insider.
Additionally, the FDA doesn’t strictly regulate the supplement industry like it does the drug industry, and many supplement labels feature ingredients that don’t match what’s in the actual products. This goes for both vitamin supplements and supplements used for energy, sexual function, and weight loss.
“The reliance of an honor system expecting [supplement] manufacturers to ensure safety of their products before launching them on the market has been utterly insufficient and ineffective in protecting the consumers from these preventable adverse events,” the study authors wrote.
In order to keep your health in check, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before taking supplements of any kind.
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