Dietary Supplements Send Thousands to ER Yearly

Weight loss dietary supplements rush nearly 23,000 individuals to the hospital emergency room annually, says a new study. This is the first time someone has calculated national numbers on this issue.

Dietary Supplents for Weight Loss

Dietary supplements send 23,000 to ER annually, says study. Photo by news@jama

According to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, supplements for weight loss and energy were the most threatening, and heart problems were the most common issue with those type of supplements. Seniors, women and preschoolers were at higher risk.

“People may not notice that dietary supplements can cause any adverse events, but each year thousands of Americans are treated in emergency rooms for symptoms related to dietary supplements,” says Andrew Geller, MD, a medical officer at the CDC who led the study. Some supplements may be safe but I always recommend diet and exercise for natural weight loss.

With over 150 million Americans taking dietary supplements, the number of people who go to the emergency room seems small to supplement manufacturers. “If you look at the projected number of emergency room visits and do the math, we’re looking at far less than one-tenth of one percent of supplement users will visit the ER,” says Duffy Mackay, ND, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade organization.

I still believe that 23,000 visits to the emergency room for a weight loss or dietary supplement is too many. Experts who did not take part in the study agree that these figure are too high. “The number is alarming,” says Pieter Cohen, MD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who studies the safety of dietary supplements.

The results were found by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration who went through medical records maintained by at least 60 hospitals around the United States. They studied a 10-year time frame, from 2004 to 2013 and searched for occurrences that physicians had specially noted had been caused by some type of supplement.

Adults between the ages of 20 and 34, and women, were most at danger. Energy and weight loss products were the blame for this age group and women were more affected than men overall. Heart issues such as racing pulse, chest pain and irregular heart beat were the most common reason individuals requested help. Adults over the age of 65 had issues with swallowing their supplement so this group was the most likely to be hospitalized. Preschoolers made up for 1 in 5 visits to the ER because many of them had taken a pill when the parent or guardian was not watching. I suggest that anyone who has dietary supplements to keep them out of sight and reach of children. Seniors can ask their physicians about other forms of taking the supplements or split the pill in half to prevent choking.

I do not believe all weight loss dietary supplements are bad but agencies need to step in and make sure that are at least safe. I would like to see those 23,000 emergency room visits decline greatly in the future and hope that people find a safe weight loss supplement to take when trying to lose weight.

Leeman Taylor
Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice
Real Estate Investor & Internet Marketer

Source: Andrew I. Geller, Nadine Shehab, Nina J. Weidle, et al “Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements” The New England Journal of Medicine 15 October 2015

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