Teenagers might be putting themselves in harm's way by taking dietary supplements that promise to aid in weight loss/gain or build muscles.
A new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found evidence that dietary supplements have been linked to serious medical outcomes.
Dietary Supplements Linked To Hospitalization, Disability, Death
The researchers analyzed the risk for severe medical events linked to the consumption of dietary supplements compared to vitamins among individuals between ages 0 and 25 years. They used the adverse event reports from January 2004 to April 2015 from the food and dietary supplements database of the U.S. Food and Drug Administrator.
They published their findings in the Journal of Adolescent Health on Wednesday, June 5.
During the study, the researchers discovered that there have been 977 single-supplement-related adverse event reports among young people. Of the number, 40 percent involved severe medical outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
Specifically, dietary supplements that promise weight loss, muscle building, or energy were associated with almost three times the risk of severe medical outcomes compared to regular vitamins. Meanwhile, those that claim to aid in colon cleanse and sexual function were linked to two times higher risk of severe medical outcomes compared to regular vitamins.
Experts Warn About Potential Harm From Taking Dietary Supplements
"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," stated Flora Or, co-author of the study and a researcher at the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorder at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "So what are the consequences for their health? That's the question we wanted to answer."
S. Bryn Austin, the senior author of the study, added that reputable doctors do not recommend young people to take dietary supplements like the ones that they analyzed. Moreover, he warned that many dietary supplements were found to contain banned substances, heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals that are only meant to be taken with a prescription, and other potentially harmful chemicals.
Previous studies have also linked dietary supplements that aid in weight loss and building muscle to stroke, cancer, liver damage, and health. Austin and colleagues are calling for policymakers to take "meaningful action" to protect children and other consumers from the potential harm that might come from taking dietary supplements.