Consumption of dietary supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building, and energy was associated with increased risk for severe medical events in children and young adults compared to consumption of vitamins, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study found that, compared with vitamins, these types of supplements were linked to nearly three times as many severe medical outcomes in young people.
These types of supplements linked to nearly three times as many severe medical outcomes in young people
“The FDA has issued countless warnings about supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building or sport performance, sexual function, and energy, and we know these products are widely marketed to and used by young people. So what are the consequences for their health? That’s the question we wanted to answer,” said lead author Flora Or, a researcher with Harvard Chan School’s Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. The study was published online June 5, 2019 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers looked at adverse event reports between January 2004 and April 2015
The researchers looked at adverse event reports between January 2004 and April 2015 in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System on the food and dietary supplements database. They analyzed the relative risk for severe medical events such as death, disability, and hospitalization in individuals aged 0 and 25 years that were linked with the use of dietary supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building, or energy compared to vitamins.
They found that there were 977 single-supplement-related adverse event reports for the target age group. Of those, approximately 40% involved severe medical outcomes, including death and hospitalization. Supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building, and energy were associated with almost three times the risk for severe medical outcomes compared to vitamins. Supplements sold for sexual function and colon cleanse were associated with approximately two times the risk for severe medical outcomes compared to vitamins.
Many of these products adulterated with prescription pharmaceuticals, banned substances, heavy metals, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals
Senior author, S. Bryn Austin, professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, noted that reputable physicians do not recommend the use of the type of dietary supplements analyzed in this study. Many of these products have been found to be adulterated with prescription pharmaceuticals, banned substances, heavy metals, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals. And other studies have linked weight-loss and muscle-building supplements with stroke, testicular cancer, liver damage, and even death.
“How can we continue to let the manufacturers of these products and the retailers who profit from them play Russian roulette with America’s youth?” Austin said. “It is well past time for policymakers and retailers to take meaningful action to protect children and consumers of all ages.”
From Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Or, F. et al. (2019) Taking Stock of Dietary Supplements’ Harmful Effects on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent Health. doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.03.005.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, which has been in print since 2005, and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.